Archive for Tuesday, October 21, 2003

State rejects bill requiring coverage

Lawmakers vote down proposal to mandate insurance companies pay for birth control

October 21, 2003


— In a preview of future legislative fights, lawmakers on Monday rejected proposals to require that health insurance companies provide coverage for contraceptives and experimental cancer treatments.

But supporters of the proposals said the decision by the Special Committee on Insurance would not stop them from pushing for the coverage when the 2004 legislative session starts in January.

"We are by no means giving up," state Rep. Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, said after the committee voted 5-4 to reject recommending passage of the contraception measure.

"A legislator once said it takes every good idea at least three years to become law, and this may be one of them," said Davis, a sponsor of the bill.

Karen Carlin, executive director of the Kansas chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, also said she would continue working for adoption of a bill requiring that insurers cover costs of patients with cancer or other deadly diseases who participate in clinical trials. A recommendation in favor of that measure failed on a 5-5 vote before the committee.

The insurance industry opposed both bills, saying the mandates would increase the cost of insurance premiums.

State Sen. Mark Buhler, a Lawrence Republican and committee member, agreed.

"We're slowly shifting the cost to the customer and they are starting to raise heck," he said.

On the bill proposing coverage of costs during clinical trials, Buhler voted against it, saying he thought the costs to insurance companies would be significant.

He voted for recommending approval of the contraceptive bill, though he said he didn't know if he supported it.

"I want to hear more information," he said.

State Rep. Scott Schwab, an Olathe Republican, led the charge against both measures. He said because most insurers covered contraceptive costs, advocates of the bill "failed to prove there is an inherent problem in Kansas."

Davis said one-third of women with employer-based health plans did not have coverage for oral contraceptives.

State Rep. Bonnie Sharp, a Kansas City Democrat, said, "I've heard from young women -- 32 to 38 years old -- who didn't get birth control and they wanted it."

State Rep. Patricia Lightner, of Overland Park, a Republican candidate for the 3rd Congressional District, which covers the east side of Lawrence, also opposed the measures.

"I don't want to introduce mandates of any kind that add to the cost" of insurance, Lightner said.

Davis has testified that national studies show contraceptive coverage would produce a 0.6 percent increase in health insurance costs, but that the coverage would actually save money by reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies.

Lightner said she was "alarmed" that Davis suggested "babies were too expensive. Does that mean we should stop having babies?"

Davis said Lightner mischaracterized his statements.

Rep. Judy Showalter, a Winfield Democrat, said the contraceptive coverage would "give people another way to plan for the future and plan for their children."

On another proposal, the committee took no action on recommending insurers pay for medical tests that can identify children at risk of disabilities. The legislators said supporters of the measure must first obtain a study by the Kansas Department of Insurance on how much the coverage would increase premiums.

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