Monday, September 6, 2010

The Part of No New York No-Fault Insurers Must Understand -- HCRA Surcharges May No Longer Be Offset Against Aggregate No-Fault Limits

Back in December 2009, I posted about the New York State Insurance Department's withdrawal after only 81 days of Circular Letter No. 21 (2009), entitled "The New York State Health Care Reform Act and No-Fault Insurance", which for a time superseded Circular Letter No. 16 (1996) and Supplement No. 1 to Circular Letter No. 16 (1996).  It all had to do with the the Department's position on whether New York no-fault insurers and self-insurers could offset an applicant's aggregate no-fault benefit limit by the amount of any HCRA surcharges paid directly to the New York State Department of Health's (“DOH”) Office of Pool Administration.  The Department's position on that question from November 22, 1996 through September 16, 2009 was YES, such HCRA surcharge payments could be applied as an offset, NO from September 16 through December 6, 2009, and YES again from December 7, 2009 to present, retroactive to its 1996 circular letter.

Once again, the answer is NO, and it's likely to stay that way indefinitely. On August 24, 2010,  the Department released Circular Letter No. 12 (2010).  Alike its withdrawn 2009 predecessor, this circular letter again supersedes and withdraws Circular Letter No. 16 (1996) and Supplement No. 1 to Circular Letter No. 16 (1996) and again advises New York no-fault insurers and self-insurers that the Department has "reconsidered its position on this issue."

Quoting a June 16, 2010 opinion of the Department's Office of General Counsel, the circular letter states:
The Legislature clearly intended payment to health providers to be included as part of basic economic loss when it enacted Article 51 of the Insurance Law. There is no similar evidence, however, that the Legislature intended payment of the surcharge to be included as a reimbursable health expense under the no-fault law. To the contrary, when it enacted the law providing for HCRA surcharge, the Legislature did not amend the no-fault law in any manner. Accordingly, the interpretive guidance set forth in Circular Letter No. 16 no longer should be followed, and insurers may not offset the HCRA surcharge against any no-fault benefits to which an injured person is entitled under Insurance Law § 5102(a).
 In light of OGC Opinion No. 10-06-05, insurers and self-insurers may not offset an applicant's aggregate no-fault benefit limit for the payment of a surcharge when the surcharge is paid directly to the DOH's Office of Pool Administration.
Since there is no effective date to this circular letter, it took effect immediately upon its issuance.  No more offsetting HCRA surcharges against aggregate no-fault limits. 

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