Nevada Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie recently introduced legislation that would repeal a law allowing insurance companies to refuse to pay for medical treatment for drug or alcohol-related injuries, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported on March 2.
The repeal would protect not only addicts but responsible drinkers as well, said Denise Everett of Join Together Northern Nevada, a Demand Treatment! Partner.
“It is a consumer protection issue. You, your neighbors, anybody in the state can be impacted by this particular law,” stressed Everett.
The current law hinders emergency room screening for drug and alcohol use, which could identify addicts and refer them to treatment services to prevent future accidents. Doctors hesitate to inquire about substance use because they fear they will not receive payment if insurance companies deny coverage.
“We're missing a golden opportunity to prevent accidents and loss of life because of this,” testified Dr. Timothy Coughlin, a Reno family practice physician.
“Alcoholism is a disease — we really should remember that,” Assemblywoman Leslie asserted. “A diabetic who doesn't take their insulin still has their medical expenses covered. A smoker who has lung cancer still has their medical expenses covered.”
Insurance companies opposing Leslie's legislation argue that it may increase premiums for small business owners, who should not be held responsible for injuries incurred by those who were impaired.
“We believe the responsibility for wrongdoing must be placed upon the wrongdoer,” argued Janice Pine, a lobbyist for Saint Mary's Health Services, one of Reno's largest health insurance providers.
Each coverage mandate on insurance companies raises the price of premiums, according to Bob Ostrovsky, a lobbyist for Nevadans for Affordable Health Care. Nevada has the third highest amount of coverage mandates in the nation.
However, identifying those with substance abuse problems and directing them to treatment services may reduce premiums in the long run, said Assemblyman Marcus Conklin.
“We would be solving these issues instead of allowing them to happen over time,” argued Conklin.
The legislation, called Assembly Bill 63, remains in the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee until a work session is held to deliberate its worth.