Here are 4 healthcare bills to know about (Meredith Newman)

#A growing number of DE doctors are quitting their practices due to low reimbursement rates from insurance companies and growing demands to see a large number of patients (e.g., 5 or 6 an hour). They retire early, leave the profession, go to work for a hospital system, or start a concierge practice that will enable them to see fewer patients. Local doctors say insurers are paying 15% to 35% less than what the federal government pays doctors for Medicare. The differential supposedly increased after Highmark merged with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of DE in 2011, reducing the competition among insurers. SB 227 would address the issue by requiring individual, group and state employee insurance plan to reimburse primary care physicians and medical professionals as much as Medicare does for the next three years.

This is at best a stopgap solution to the reimbursement rate discrepancy. In other cases, there have been complaints of Medicare paying less than insurers. “Overall, Medicare's allowed charges are roughly 80% of the charges allowed by private insurers - about the same as they have been since 1999.” Medicare vs. private insurance, which costs less, Tami Luhby, cnn.com, 4/21/14.

#Fertility treatment and preservation – A bill requiring insurers in DE to cover fertility care services has been passed overwhelmingly majority by the House and Senate. The bill is now being reviewed in the governor’s office.

#Conversion therapy – SB 65 would prohibit DE licensed medical professionals from engaging in practices that seek to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It would also bar state social workers from recommending conversion therapy. Rep. Debra Hefferman (D-Bellefonte) is reported to have called conversion therapy a harmful practice that has been discredited by medical and psychological associations. The bill is on track to be signed by the governor.

#Expedited partner therapy – Under this bill, which was unanimously passed by both houses and is under review in the governor’s office, a doctor could prescribe drugs to treat the sexual partners (for the past 60 days) of their patients for venereal diseases without the partners being examined. Such a measure was first recommended by the federal CDC in 2006, and Delaware is one of the last states to adopt it.

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