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Senate Passes Bills Providing Insurance-Related Consumer Protections

Trenton – In an effort to address insurance-related challenges brought on or exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Senate today advanced five bills that would improve insurance coverage and assist low-income residents.
“Each of these bills are essential to providing individuals with protections during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Pou (D-Passaic), chair of the Senate Commerce Committee. “Due to the pandemic, many individuals have been affected by charges for unused service, lack of business interruption insurance, or seizure of funds.  If enacted, these bills would provide clarifications and protections for individuals throughout New Jersey that will assist them during the pandemic.”
S-1140, sponsored by Senators Joseph Vitale and Nellie Pou, would require health benefits coverage for adolescent depression screenings. Under the bill, screenings would be covered by insurance for adolescents, between the ages of 12-18, experiencing major depressive disorders.
“In order to properly treat adolescents for depression or other mental health issues, early diagnosis is imperative,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex), chair of the Senate Health Committee. “School, work, family life, and personal life are often contributors to a person’s stress and anxiety levels, and yet, many adolescents are unable to receive the treatment they need. This bill would ensure that children and teenagers will be able to receive the treatment they need to tackle depression disorders.”
S-3131, sponsored by Senator Pou, would require dental insurers to provide credits for reduced usage during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the bill, every carrier writing dental insurance plans in New Jersey would be required to issue each policyholder in good-standing with a plan in effect on March 27, 2020 a credit equivalent to the value of any reduced claims due to limited dental services being available from March 27, 2020 to May 26, 2020.
S-3169, sponsored by Senators Pou and Vin Gopal, would require the Department of Banking and Insurance to publish a one-page summary of common insurance clauses concerning coverage for the loss of use and occupancy of a commercial property and business interruption that may be used in a commercial insurance policy.
“Under most standard business interruption insurance policies, policyholders are not reimbursed if their business is closed due to a pandemic,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth). “The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted business operations for many, and yet, many are being denied coverage due to this gap in their coverage. Under this bill, going forward, policy holders will be better educated as to what is excluded from their insurance plan.”
S-3175, sponsored by Senator Pou, would permit expedited licensure in mental health professions for individuals during a state of emergency or public health emergency. Under the bill, recent graduates, who are not licensed in any jurisdiction, may receive an expedited license to practice certain mental health professions at the discretion of the professional board.
S-3405, sponsored by Senator Pou, would provide protections for pandemic-related financial assistance. The bill would prevent debt collectors from seizing funds by providing that all financial assistance would be the property of the individual that is entitled to the assistance. Additionally, the bill would prevent financial institutions from taking fees out of deposited stimulus checks.  
All of the bills cleared the Senate by votes of 37-0.