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§33-6-30. Construction of policies.

(a) Every insurance contract shall be construed according to the entirety of its terms and conditions as set forth in the policy and as amplified, extended or modified by any rider, endorsement or application attached to and made a part of the policy: Provided, That the word "physician" when used in any accident and sickness policy or other contract providing for the payment of surgical procedures shall be construed to include a physician, dentist or chiropodist-podiatrist performing surgical procedures or chiropractor performing other health care services within the scope of his or her professional license: Provided, however, That any policy of insurance or medical or health service contract providing for payment or reimbursement for any professional services pertaining to eye examination, refractions or the fitting of corrective lenses shall be construed to include payment or reimbursement for professional services rendered by either a duly licensed physician or a duly licensed optometrist, within the scope of their respective professional licenses, and that the insured or subscriber have freedom of choice to select either a physician or an optometrist to render or perform professional services.

(b) The Legislature finds:

(1) That consumers and insurers both benefit from the legislative mandate that the Insurance Commissioner approve the forms used and the rates charged by insurance companies in this state;

(2) That certain classes of persons are seeking refunds of insurance premiums and seeking to void exclusions and other policy provisions on the basis that insurance companies allegedly failed to provide or demonstrate a reduction in premiums charged in relation to certain terms or exclusions incorporated into policies of insurance;

(3) That historically, as a prerequisite to a rate or form being approved, neither the Legislature nor the Insurance Commissioner has ever required that the insurer demonstrate that there was a specific premium reduction for certain exclusions incorporated into policies of insurance;

(4) That the provisions of this chapter were enacted with the intent of requiring the filing of all rates and forms with the Insurance Commissioner to enable the Insurance Commissioner to review and regulate rates and forms in a fair and consistent manner;

(5) That the provisions of this chapter do not provide and were not intended to provide the basis for monetary damages in the form of premium refunds or partial premium refunds when the form used and the rates charged by the insurance company have been approved by the Insurance Commissioner;

(6) That actions seeking premium refunds or partial premium refunds have a severe and negative impact upon insurers operating in this state by imposing unexpected liabilities when insurers have relied upon the Insurance Commissioner's approval of the forms used and the rates charged insureds; and

(7) That it is in the best interest of the citizens of this state to ensure a stable insurance market.

(c) Nothing in this chapter may be construed as requiring specific line item premium discounts or rate adjustments corresponding to any exclusion, condition, definition, term or limitation in any policy of insurance, including policies incorporating statutorily mandated benefits or optional benefits which as a matter of law must be offered. Where any insurance policy form, including any endorsement thereto, has been approved by the commissioner, and the corresponding rate has been approved by the commissioner, there is a presumption that the policy forms and rate structure are in full compliance with the requirements of this chapter. It is the intent of the Legislature that the amendments in this section enacted during the regular session of two thousand two are: (1) A clarification of existing law as previously enacted by the Legislature, including, but not limited to, the provisions of subsection (k), section thirty-one of this article; and, (2) specifically intended to clarify the law and correct a misinterpretation and misapplication of the law that was expressed in the holding of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia in the case of Mitchell v. Broadnax, 537 S.E.2d 882 (W.Va. 2000). These amendments are a clarification of the existing law as previously enacted by this Legislature.

Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2017 Regular Session
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