Crowe speaks out on Haslam veto of health insurance bill

Published 5:40 pm Friday, May 4, 2018

In a move that surprised a local lawmaker, on Thursday Governor Bill Haslam announced he had vetoed a bill which would have required the insurance provider for state employees to cover an alternative therapy to radiation.

“Today, I vetoed Senate Bill 367, a bill that circumvents the established process for determining state employee insurance program coverage based on medical evidence and effectiveness,” Haslam said in a statement released on Thursday. “The state plan currently covers many forms of radiation treatment, and the provider advocating this bill rejected a medically appropriate plan for expanded coverage to instead pursue a political mandate.”

“The state is committed to high-quality care that is medically appropriate and fiscally responsible for patients and taxpayers, but this mandate could put patients at risk and expose them to excessive charges from out-of-network providers,” Haslam added.

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Under the terms of SB367, if health insurance covers intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) for the delivery of a biological effective dose for a particular indication, then the health insurance must cover the delivery of the same biological effective dose for an eligible adult patient for the same indication by a physician-prescribed hypofractionated proton therapy protocol on the same basis it covers IMRT, if the patient is treated as part of a clinical trial or registry.

State Sen. Rusty Crowe, who serves as the chairman of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, told the Elizabethton Star he was surprised by Haslam’s decision to veto the bill.

Crowe said he had spoken with individuals who wanted to follow their doctor’s recommendation and undergo the proton therapy treatment instead of radiation, but their insurance provider would not cover the cost of the therapy.

“Proton therapy is a good thing,” Crowe said. “It’s less invasive and hurts you less than radiation treatment.”

The primary sponsor for the bill was Sen. Mark Green (R-Clarksville), but Crowe said he signed on as a prime co-sponsor of the legislation because he supported the measure.

Crowe voted in favor of the bill in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee and then again when the bill came to the Senate Floor.

The legislation passed the Senate by a margin of 29-1 with one member abstaining from the vote. On the House side, the bill passed on a vote of 82-13 with Carter County lawmakers Rep. John Holsclaw and Rep. Timothy Hill both voting in favor of the legislation.

The bill was transmitted to Haslam for action on April 23.

While Haslam vetoed the bill, Crowe said that does not mean the issue is done. As the prime sponsor of the bill, Crowe said Sen. Green could call for a vote to override Haslam’s veto.