End-of-life medical care bill gets committee nod

Health insurance companies could not deny health care based on an insured’s life expectancy or terminal medical condition under a proposal adopted Wednesday by a Louisiana House panel.

“It’s a pro-life bill,” said state Rep. Scott Simon, R-Abita Springs. “It’s pro-life, not in the beginning, but in the end stage of life.”

“It’s asking as you approach that point in your life you are afforded all the medical procedures necessary and proper,” Simon said.

According to proponents, House Bill 336, was prompted by a policy adopted in Oregon, where care is rationed by eliminating medications, radiation, chemotherapy and other treatment for the terminally ill. The health plans would provide hospice care instead.

“We think it particularly cruel,” said Pete Martinez, director of state governmental affairs for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association. “The Oregon policy should not take root in Louisiana.”

Under HB336, as rewritten in committee, no health care plan could deny coverage for medically necessary treatment prescribed by a physician and agreed to by “a fully informed insured” or person with legal authority to make decisions for them based only on the person’s life expectancy or the fact the insured is diagnosed with a terminal condition.

Terminal condition is defined as any malignancy or chronic end-stage cardiovasular or cerebral vascular disease that is likely to result in the insured’s death.

The prohibition would cover any hospital, health or medical insurance policy, hospital or medical service contract, employee welfare benefit plan, contract or agreement with a health maintenance organization or a preferred provider organization, or any other contract of the type, including the state Office of Group Benefits programs. The legislation would also apply to the state’s private insurance based health plans for Medicaid recipients.

“It’s a proactive move to take the lead on a prolife issue,” Simon said.

“The only thing bad about it is we have to pass a bill,” said state Rep. Bernard LeBas, D-Ville Platte.

The House Health and Welfare Committee approved the measure without opposition.

It now goes to the House floor where it get a new number because changes Simon proposed to take care of health plans and others concerns about the original proposal.