When travelers are stricken by serious injuries, earthquakes or threats to their safety from volatile political situations overseas, they often turn to companies like Global Rescue for help that can rescue them from harm. But when Global Rescue needed regulatory relief to continue operating affordably in Washington State, they turned to Rep. Cindy Ryu for help.
Yesterday, Ryu (D-Shoreline) led unanimous House passage of a measure that aims to protect traveler-rescue services in Washington from being buried beneath costly new insurance regulations.
“We worked with consumers, the Insurance Commissioner’s office and the traveler-rescue industry to protect consumers without requiring expensive new insurance mandates,” said Ryu. “I think today’s unanimous House vote shows we struck the right balance.”
Traveler-rescue contracts have traditionally been regarded in Washington as subscription services rather than insurance policies. But a review of these contracts led the Office of the Insurance Commissioner to conclude that, technically, state law requires them to be regulated as insurance products.
Ryu’s reform, House Bill 2188, aims to protect against the sudden imposition of new regulations that would mandate millions of dollars of additional costs and potentially wipe out the availability of these rescue services to Washington customers.
Testifying on behalf of Global Rescue and Medical Air Services Association, Mel Sorenson told the House Business & Financial Services Committee on Jan. 12 that having access to effective rescue services can make the difference between life and death. He cited examples that included rescuing survivors of the Haiti earthquake and evacuating hundreds of students and employees from dangerous situations during the Arab Spring last year.
Sorenson testified that unless Ryu’s bill passes it is “exceedingly likely that these programs will be unavailable to residents, businesses, corporations, non-profits and others in Washington state.”
Ryu’s bill provides a “regulatory safe harbor,” Sorenson said.
“I sincerely believe that passing this law will protect lives by ensuring that Washingtonians can continue to contract for rescue services when they know they may face dangers far from home,” said Ryu.