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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Mandate Hearing in Rhode Island

The Providence Journal reports:

Shawn Donahue, who represents Blue Cross & Blue Shield of R.I., had just emerged from a hearing room in the State House, where he and other health insurance lobbyists had expressed skepticism about a bill that would require them to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism.

The lobbyists had signed up to speak against the bill, but once they took a seat before the microphones, they shied away from spelling out their objections head-on.

Jason Martesian of UnitedHealthcare, told the House Committee on Health Education and Welfare that insurers had begun talks with the bill’s principal sponsor, state Rep. Peter Palumbo, and hoped to get back to him with “compromise language.”

Donahue suggested that the bill might lead to duplication of effort, in that insurers already pay assessments — about $5 million annually in the case of Blue Cross — to support early intervention services for very young children.

Outside the hearing room, Janes, the vice president and controller of Washington Trust Co., stepped up to Donahue and invited him to visit the treatment program of her daughter, Amelia.

Janes, a Blue Cross subscriber, assured Donahue that her health insurance does not pay for the intensive, highly specialized treatment called Applied Behavior Analysis. At one point, 40 hours a week of ABA for Amelia cost Janes $30,000 a year out of pocket, she told Donahue.