Insurance fight over abortion, smoking, erectile dysfunction sent back to committee

? A non-controversial insurance bill got loaded up Wednesday in the House with amendments on abortion, smoking and erectile dysfunction.

But after several hours of debate, House Bill 2490, which initially dealt with longterm health care, was sent back to committee.

“Part of it has been good, part of it has been a waste of time,” state Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, said of the House debate.

The debate started when state Rep. Peter DeGraaf, R-Mulvane, pushed through an amendment that would require women to buy extra health insurance to cover abortions. The amendment was passed 73-45. The exception would be if the abortion was required to save the life of the woman.

Supporters of the amendment said it would save people who oppose abortion from seeing their insurance payments subsidize such coverage.

Opponents called it ludicrous and discriminatory. What if a woman is raped and needs an abortion, but doesn’t have the procedure covered on her policy, they asked.

On smoking, state Rep. Barbara Bollier, R-Mission Hills, successfully added an amendment that would require an extra premium to cover illnesses caused by tobacco products.

Bollier said the Legislature shouldn’t micro-manage insurance companies, but that the abortion amendment opened up the door.

Then state Rep. Ann Mah, D-Topeka, proposed an amendment to exclude coverage of erectile dysfunction from insurance poiicies, unless the policyholder purchased a specific rider to cover that.

Peck drew guffaws when he said the amendment “won’t stand up on its own.” But Mah’s amendment was approved 64-35.

That’s when state Rep. Nile Dilmore, D-Wichita, and Peck, who are both members of the Insurance Committee, sought to send the bill back to committee. Both said they were most concerned with the impact of Bollier’s amendment.

Meanwhile, the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee advanced without a recommendation a constitutional amendment that is aimed at nixing any federal requirement that Kansans purchase health insurance.

“The Healthcare Freedom Amendment will help protect the people of Kansas from the disastrous results of the proposed healthcare bill that Washington, D.C. intends to force upon us,” said state Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, and chair of the committee.