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Legislature moving to open door to insurers

Individuals and employers in Arizona would be able to buy health insurance policies across state lines under legislation that would excuse out-of-state insurers — and possibly in-state providers — from the state’s coverage mandates.

The House on Wednesday approved, 37-21, a Senate-passed bill to allow insurers licensed outside Arizona to offer and sell policies in the state.

The House broadened the bill to also allow insurers licensed by Arizona to drop specific mandated coverage if an out-of-state company doesn’t provide the mandated coverage in a policy issued in Arizona.

The bill now returns to the Senate for consideration of changes made by the House.

Arizona mandates a wide range of coverage, including minimum allowed hospital stays for women giving birth, post-mastectomy breast reconstruction and treatments for autism.

While opponents said the bill would leave some people without coverage for needed care, supporters said the changes would help employers secure less expensive insurance for their employees,

“The bill allows more competition and you chose the policy that you want,” said Rep. David Burnell Smith, R-Carefree, adding that employees can lobby their employers for specific coverages. “That’s the idea of competition. You have a choice.”

Rep. Debbie McCune Davis, D-Phoenix, said the bill would gut mandates that were the result of hard-fought battles at the Legislature in past years.

“The bottom line is these mandates are in the law for a reason. They are here because people paid for insurance and didn’t get what they were paying for,” she said.

McCune Davis predicted that lawmakers would be flooded with emails voicing loud objections from cancer patients and other Arizonans with a stake in certain coverages as well as care providers.

“You will hear from the chiropractors. You will hear from the optometrists,” she said. “Put psychologists on that list as well.”

Rep. Nancy McLain, R-Bullhead City, said predictions that people will immediately lose certain coverages are fear-mongering.

Other states considering legislation to allow residents to purchase insurance across state lines include George and Montana.

Also Wednesday, the House rejected an amendment to a companion bill, refusing to give health-history information on a health plan’s members to a broker or agent hired by a plan sponsor.

Republican Rep. Steve Montenegro of Litchfield Park said the information would remain confidential but enable the broker or agent to help the plan sponsor to shop for coverage appropriate for the plan’s members.

Opponents said employers and other plan sponsors who know of members’ costly health problems might choose to pick policies that exclude specific coverage or even find ways to get rid of particular workers because of their health costs.

“That’s precisely the danger this amendment presents,” said Rep. Tom Chabin, D-Flagstaff.

One comment

  1. I knew the Republicans in the legislature had been bought and paid for by the NRA and Grover Norquist, now it looks like they have sold their souls to the insurance industry as well. How nice for middle-class Arizonans.

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