Health insurance changes take effect in N.H.

While massive reform of the health-care system is debated in Washington, some smaller local measures passed in the last legislative session went into effect this week, along with a host of other bills that will affect business.

The big change — which became law Monday — might not take place for a long time, and some question whether it will happen at all.

House Bill 115 enables the Healthy Kids Corp. to set up a program for young adult dependents under 26 to buy into the program, as long as the insurance commissioner determines it doesn’t compete with commercial insurance. Offering such a limited local public option, however, appears to be more complicated than legislators originally thought.

The Healthy Kids board “has begun exploring the development of a health insurance product,” according to a statement released by the interim chief executive, Jeffrey White. “A committee has been formed including members of the NHHK board of directors and management staff, as well as representatives from our medical insurance provider, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. An effective date for the Young Adult Buy-In program has not been determined.”

Another bill that went into effect Monday — HB 330 — adds technical corrections to a previous law that requires insurers to offer family coverage that includes young adults. HB 330 also triples the maximum fine for late payment of insurance fees to the state to $300,000 a year.

Another, HB 102, which also went into effect Monday, would require that provider contracts under managed care contain a provision that covered persons have access to any provider in the network. The law is designed to make sure that patients know they don’t have to accept referrals that are limited to the same practice or one under contract with which the practice is affiliated.

There were changes in other laws affecting business aside from health care that have taken effect this week:

• Non-bank consumer lending institutions — retail sellers, mortgage loan services, debt adjustment services personnel and money transmitters — will now be scrutinized more by the state Banking Department and pay stiffer fees.

HB 334, which went into effect Sunday, will enable the commissioner to conduct criminal record checks to investigate any fraud, perjury or similar offense and not just those involving lending. It gives the department subpoena power and allows the department to bar someone from getting licensed, not just taking away a license, if such an action is “in the public interest”

Those being examined will have to pay their examination fees in two weeks and license and renewal fees would increase fivefold to $500.

• Contractors on state projects must list all subcontractors as soon as possible after winning a bid and before starting work, thanks to SB 78, which went into effect on Monday.
• Landlords will be put on notice that their property may be contaminated — and they might have to do something about it — if a tenant’s child’s blood contains lead at 6 micrograms per deciliter, as opposed to the current threshold of 6.5 micrograms. The law instructs the state to set up a new window replacement program, funded by the Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund, but while the state could set up a pilot program, a full report outlining the program isn’t due until December of 2010.
Thus far, there is no information on the program on the state’s lead prevention Web site.
• Developers can now require that planning boards provide them with a written decision of permits with conditions, with “a detailed description of all conditions necessary to obtain final approval,” thanks to Senate Bill 189, which also went into effect Monday. The decision must be made available within five business days of the planning board’s vote. — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW