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March 05. 2014 8:17PM

Legislative Roundup: Bill that could have altered health insurance exchange killed

CONCORD — Health insurers will not be required to allow all health care providers to participate in their networks after the House killed House Bill 1294.

Under the bill, all insurance carriers offering products on the state’s health insurance exchange would be required to negotiate with any provider that wants to be included in their health care networks.

Several hospitals left out of Anthem’s Pathway network say they were never contacted by the insurer. Anthem is the only insurer on the state exchange this year. Several hospitals claim Anthem refused to negotiate with them instead giving them a take it or it leave option.

State insurance department officials have said the Anthem network meets the state’s adequacy standards, but is in the process of reviewing those standards in light of the complaints.

Rep. Donna Schlachman, D-Exeter, told House members, the committee is concerned about the consumers impacted by the narrow network, but the bill would have a chilling effect on insurance carriers who want to participate on the exchange in 2015.

The bill’s prime sponsor, Rep. Bill Nelson, R-Brookfield, said the bill attempts to correct an injustice done to 20,000 New Hampshire residents who now have to travel to a new hospital and find a new doctor.

Why should a carrier be able to select only the hospitals they wish to deal with Nelson asked? The House killed the bill on a 179-129 vote.

Primary centennial

The House wants the state to begin planning for the 100th anniversary of the first New Hampshire Presidential Primary in 2016.

House Bill 1400 establishes a 16-member commission to oversee the 100th anniversary of the primary.

The bill is sponsored by House and Senate leaders from both parties.

The first primary was held March 14, 1916, approved by lawmakers in 1913 when Rep. Stephen Bullock wanted to move presidential selection from party boss-controlled, smoked-filled back rooms to the country’s citizens.

Two years after Bullock’s bill passed, Rep. John Glessner of Bethlehem introduced a bill to change the date of the primary from the third Tuesday in May to the second Tuesday in March to align with town meeting day to save money.

In 1952, Rep. Richard Upton of Concord introduced a bill that added the names of the presidential candidates and the primary began attracting legions of presidential hopefuls and a gaggle of states who wanted to be first.

The bill now goes to the Senate for action.

Warrant required

Law enforcement would need a court-issued warrant to search the content of a cell phone or other portable electronic device under a bill the House approved.

House Bill 1533 extends privacy protections and Fourth Amendment rights to electronic devices, supporters say.

“This legislation will give clear direction to law enforcement, thereby protecting all parties,” said Rep. Mark Warden, R-Goffstown. “With today’s smart phones, many people rely on these devices as their only means of communication and as an indispensable tool for work.”

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Taping public officials

A bill allowing audio and video taping public officials performing their duties will be studied further.

House Bill 1550 would change the law to extend the right to record public officials to reflect the current reality, where officials are often videotaped during meetings on in the case of law enforcement or emergency responders performing their duties.

However opponents said the bill will have dangerous unintended consequences that could prevent public officials from performing their duties such as town clerks, teachers, librarians and state and county employees.

Rep. Geoffrey Hirsch, D-Bradford, said bill does not address the privacy of rights of individuals who may be videotaped while interacting with a public official.

“This bill is too problematic to become law,” he told fellow House members. “Current law is sufficient.”

Rep. Neal Kirk, R-Weare, fears people not wanting to be recorded while interacting with public officials want the meeting moved behind closed doors. He suggested more work be done to address privacy concerns.

The House first voted down the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee’s recommendation to pass the bill on an 88-200 vote, and then sent the bill for interim study.

No speeding

Although the speed limit was recently raised on a rural section of Interstate 93, drivers should not expect to see a similar bump on other state roads any time soon.

The House killed two bills that would have raised the speed limit from 65 miles-an-hour to 70 on sections of Route 101 and I-89.

The bills’ sponsor, Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, R-Manchester, argued the change would make the roads safer, not more dangerous as safety officials argue, because more traffic would be travelling at a similar rate of speed.

But bill opponents said lawmakers should wait until data is collected from the section of I-93 from Plymouth to the Vermont border where the speed was raised to 70 mph last year before raising the limit on any other roads.

House Bill 1118, which would have raised the speed limit to 70 mph on Route 101 was killed by a 205-90 vote, while House Bill 1185, which would have raised the limit on I-89 was killed by a 199-119 vote.

grayno@unionleader.com


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