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Oklahoma State Senate

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For Immediate Release: February 15, 2008

Sen. Andrew Rice
Sen. Andrew Rice

Senator Rice Opposes House Move to Protect Insurance Companies

A House bill protecting insurance companies from legislative mandates is a “sellout” to a special interest and a “stake in the heart” of Oklahomans who are often victims to arbitrary insurance policy rules that deny them access to quality health care, Oklahoma State Senator Andrew Rice, D-OKC, said today.

Rice is cosponsor of “Steffanie’s Law”, SB 1521, which would require insurance companies to continue coverage of routine medical care for critically ill patients who submit to clinical trials as a last resort. Rice has cited statistics which show that the costs of medical treatment for patients who go through clinical trials are no greater than for those patients who do not receive clinical trials.

“My bill would not force the insurance companies to pay for the clinical trials, which they regard as experimental treatments,” Rice said. “We just want them to continue paying for the routine medical care they were insuring before these patients followed their doctor’s recommendation into clinical trials.”

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed HB 3111 to make it harder for the State Legislature to create coverage mandates for health insurance companies.

Rice’s bill is named after an area teenager, Steffanie Collings, who has been fighting brain cancer since she was 14. Her parents did not hesitate when they were told she might be helped by clinical trial treatments. However, their insurance company stopped paying Steffanie’s medical bills and the family is now strapped with more than $400,000 in medical bills.

“I understand why insurance companies do not want the state’s elected legislature acting on behalf of our constituents when we believe that ordinary Oklahomans are being treated unfairly by the insurance bureaucracy,” Rice said. “I just fundamentally disagree with them.”

Rice said the industry’s argument that legislative mandates increase the cost of insurance premiums is “bogus”.

“For instance, legislative mandates that have required coverage of diabetes testing and mammograms actually save health care costs in the long run because they are preventive treatments that allow for early detection and avoid the extraordinary costs of critical health care for those patients,” he said. “In the case of clinical trials, they are conducted at no cost to the insurance company and most often at no cost to the patient. They also could help cure the patient and reduce his or her medical care costs down the road.”

Rice also cited legislation introduced by State Senator Jay Paul Gumm, D-Durant, as an example where health care costs could be reduced if insurance companies in Oklahoma were forced to cover treatment for autism. Senate Bill 1537 would require insurance policies to cover health issues related to autistic disorders. National research shows that one in every 150 children will be diagnosed with some form of autism. Currently, 17 states have similar insurance mandates.

Gumm has said his bill, called “Nick's Law”, would give more families in Oklahoma a chance to seek both early diagnosis and treatment for an affliction that is growing at an alarming rate.

For more information contact:
Senator Rice's Office: (405) 521-5610

Inon: Horizontal Blue Band

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