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SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon House advanced legislation Thursday allowing patients to have information about their medical benefits sent directly to them, and not to the insurance policyholder.
HB 2758 would give any patient a choice of whether they want communication about their health care sent to the insurance policyholder or somewhere else. That communication could include an explanation of benefits notice, information about their doctor's appointment or a description of the services provided.
Many supporters argued the bill was intended to protect survivors of sexual or domestic abuse. They said those people may be too scared to seek medical treatment if they know information about their doctor's visit would be sent to the policyholder, who could also be their abuser.
But critics of the proposal said federal law already affords victims of abuse privacy protections, and parents could still find out about the medical treatment when they receive the bill.
Bill sponsor Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, said the measure ensures insurance communications are private for all patients. The bill only changes where the explanation of benefits is sent and has no effect on consent laws for medical treatment, she said.
Lawmakers backing the proposal also argued other people, such as teenagers or young adults still enrolled in their parent's plan, might choose to forgo treatment on sensitive subjects, such as for sexually transmitted diseases, if they don't want their families to find out.
"Even kids that have loving parents will keep things from their parents if they're embarrassed or think they'll get in trouble," said Rep. Rob Nosse, another Democrat from Portland.
House Republican Leader Rep. Mike McLane argued insurance companies would be violating federal law if they didn't accommodate requests from abuse victims who want their private medical information protected.
McLane, R-Powell Butte, said he'd support a substitute measure that was introduced on the floor. That measure allowed health care providers to report abuse if a patient under the age of 19 made a confidential communications request and said information about their treatment could lead to abuse. It failed 34-25.
Other opponents were concerned kids would be tempted to skip seeing their doctor for sports-related injuries if they knew they'd be required to sit out future events while they healed.
Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, said the measure would add little protection for kids hoping to avoid having their parents find out they went to see their doctor because the policyholder would still be receiving the billing statements.
"I'm still going to know the insurance is being utilized," Parrish said. "This actually puts a different layer of problems into the house where there ... are children who could potentially be abused," she added.
The bill passed 34-25 on a party-line vote, with Republicans voting against it. It now heads to the Senate.