Oregon legislators table bill to protect Oregonians from patient discrimination

2.15.16

Has an insurance company ever prevented you from getting the care you needed? If so, you’re not alone.

The Senate Committee on Health Care last week considered a bill to protect Oregonians from current and future instances of patient, disease and treatment discrimination.

Numerous health advocacy groups filed testimony in support of the bill, which aimed to prohibit discrimination based on “age, expected length of life, present or predicted disability, medical dependency or quality of life in determination of medical services covered by state medical assistance program, in coverage under medical retainer practice and in issuance of health benefit plans.

At a public hearing, BJ Cavnor, of One in Four Chronic Health, said the bill is “a matter of life or death” for patients.

Madonna McGuire Smith, whose children live with a hereditary blood disease, was also in favor of the bill.

“Discrimination in medical situations is not acceptable,” she wrote in prepared testimony on behalf of the Hemophilia Foundation of Oregon. “If someone were to decide to deny one of my children proper medical care because they have a chronic bleeding disorder it would be intolerable. SB 1568 would protect my children from medical discrimination in the future.”

According to the Oregon Patient Rights Coalition, the bill would codify “some of the most important and critical protections of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into Oregon state law.”

“Currently, these protections apply only to Oregonians enrolled in health insurance exchange plans and may be waived by state application to the federal government beginning in 2017,” stated testimony from the American Cancer Society/Cancer Action Network, Oregon Health Equity Alliance, Arthritis Foundation, NAMI and others.

The Chronic Disease Coalition agrees these changes are needed.

In today’s environment of changing health-care policies, plans and programs, patients with disabilities, including those with kidney disease or other chronic conditions, are faced with the threat of reduced treatment or coverage. The best options for treatment should be decided by medical professionals and their patients – not a third-party such as an insurance company.

The bill was sponsored by Sen. Jackie Winters, Rep. Bill Kennemer, Sen. Chip Shields and Sen. Alan Bates. While it has been tabled until 2017, the CDC will continue to advocate for protections to protect the chronically ill – and all patients in Oregon.