Lawmakers share details on health-related proposed legislation

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – As the 2021 session of the Kentucky General Assembly inches closer, lawmakers are already hard at work preparing their pieces of legislation to formally introduce in January.

Tuesday, members and a few guests of the Interim Joint Committee on Health, Welfare and Family Services shared their upcoming health-related bills during the committee’s last meeting of 2020.

Committee co-chair Rep. Kimberly Poore Moser, R-Taylor Hill, discussed two bills she will sponsor during the upcoming legislative session. First, is a bill on giving local governments more control over tobacco sales and marketing in an effort to reduce tobacco use and tobacco-related illnesses.

“This bill is not a local mandate,” Moser said. “Rather it gives local elected officials a tool that they can use to improve health in their communities if they choose to use it.”

The legislation is supported by the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow and the Kentucky League of Cities.

Moser also discussed Bill Request 966. This bill would change prior authorization requirements for medication for addiction treatment.

“Most of you know that prior auth(orization) is used to either approve or deny treatment, which has been prescribed by your healthcare provider,” Moser said. “Prior authorization forces your healthcare provider to contact your insurance company or your pharmacy benefit manager to get approval before you can start certain treatments.”

Moser added that prior authorization requirements can often delay time-sensitive treatment for those with substance abuse disorders for several days or weeks.

Committee co-chair Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, shared info on BR 35, which would regulate out-of-network billing.

“The key thing on the proposal that I’ve got is it holds patients harmless,” Alvarado said. “So if someone does have a surprise bill of some sort, it would require their insurance coverage to make a payment to the provider based off of the current median in-network rate or the median in-network rate for 2019, whichever is higher.”

Alvarado noted that a similar bill is making its way through Congress and could be passed by the end of this month, which would make his bill obsolete.

In the same spirit of providing more coverage to Kentuckians, Rep. Kim Banta, R-Ft. Mitchell, has pre-filed a bill relating to Medicaid eligibility for individuals diagnosed with breast cancer.

BR 86 would allow people diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer to be eligible for Medicaid services without a long delay.

Banta asked Vanessa Ashley, a 55-year-old Kentuckian battling metastatic breast cancer, to speak on behalf of the bill.

Ashley said many people diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer cannot work or eventually have to quit their jobs and are at risk of losing their health insurance. This is especially true for unmarried patients who do not have a spouse’s insurance plan to fall back on.

Currently, there is a three- to five-month processing time period with an additional two year waiting period before accessing metastatic breast cancer Medicaid benefits, Ashley said. This gap in coverage could keep metastatic breast cancer patients from receiving the care they need due to the high cost of the treatments they require.

In addition, Rep. Deanna Frazier, R-Richmond, also shared information on BR 163, which would keep most of the state’s pandemic telehealth policies in place permanently.

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