The COVID-19 situation significantly altered the course of legislative events, leaving some uncertainly what – beyond measures to address the immediate crisis – the NC General Assembly’s will attempt to address in the upcoming legislative session, scheduled to commence on April 28. With Governor Cooper’s declaration of a state of emergency on March 10, and the subsequent federal disaster declaration on March 25, Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) appointed 74 of the 120 state House members to the Select Committee on COVID-19, and formed for Working Groups: Health Care, Continuity of State Operations, Economic Support, and Education.
The state Senate leadership decided not to form a similar committee but have been holding regular conference calls among its members, and is monitor the issues the come before the House committee.
The House Select Committee and Working Groups have been meeting via video conference over the past several weeks, getting reports and presentations from various state agencies and constituency groups representing business sectors impacted significantly by this situation. While there have not been specific proposals put forward yet, the intention is that when the General Assembly convenes later this month there will be a package of items put forward as the recommendations coming out of these meetings. We will continue to monitor these meetings for any issues of interest to NCAHU members that may arise out of the them.
There was some speculation that the full General Assembly might come back to Raleigh for a Special Session before April 28, to address any specific statutory or regulatory issues relevant to the response and recovery efforts of the state, or to make changes or appropriate funds as might be needed to qualify North Carolina for federal assistance now available.
That now seems less likely (unless the Governor decides to compel it), and that the legislature will return to Raleigh on April 28 for a very short duration to deal with and COVID-19 related issues and adjourn (perhaps with an eye to reconvene in the late summer / early fall, if the situation has improved significantly, to take up any ‘usual business’ that needs addressing).
A few key items of interest relative to recent orders issued by the NC Department of Insurance:
Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey successfully advocated for the clear designation of insurance agencies as ‘essential businesses’ in all locally issued and for the state ‘Stay at Home’ order. Agency may stay open if they wish for the duration of the emergency.
All NC licensed insurance producers and adjusters with Continuing Education expiration in March, April, or May are granted an extension through June 30, 2020.
There will be delays in license testing and issuance, as Pearson VUE testing centers are closed through at least April 15, and sheriff’s offices have suspended fingerprinting services for occupational licensing of all kinds.
On March 23, Commissioner Causey called for health insurers to waive prior authorization for COVID-19 diagnostic tests and covered services – and to provide these at no cost to the insured; also, to speed access to certain drugs and to make expedited formulary exceptions if needed or if there is a shortage of a certain medication for those diagnosed with COVID-19 suffering with other health conditions and those undergoing treatment using a non-formulary prescription drug intended to lessen symptoms or the duration of the virus.
On March 27, Commissioner Causey issued a stop order allowing consumers to request a premium deferral for 30 days (the duration of disaster declaration), with all payments made at the end of the period.