2011 Regular Session . May 17, 2011
SB 149, balance billing for health-care providers, and SB 61, immunity for medical providers, rescheduled to be heard next week in Senate Judiciary A
HB 563, oil and gas land contamination bill, to be heard Wednesday, May 18, in House Natural Resources
Senate Judiciary A discussion cut short, bills deferred
Balance billing voluntarily deferred
With three bills on an afternoon agenda, Senate Judiciary A spent most of its time on one bill dealing with access to birth certificates and then began discussing SB 149 by Sen. Dan "Blade" Morrish only minutes before the full Senate was to convene in afternoon session. Sen. Morrish briefly discussed amendments* and voluntarily deferred his bill until next week. Giving a short explanation, Sen. Morrish and supporters who testified said the bill clarifies language and does not change current law. They said the bill "protects the injured party." At the table testifying were two representatives — one from Acadian Ambulance and the other from the Louisiana Hospital Association and Metropolitan Hospital Council of New Orleans.
On the record in support of the bill are 12 medical and health-care providers, including Acadian Ambulance, Louisiana State Medical Society, Louisiana Ambulance Alliance, state orthopedic and chiropractic associations, some hospitals and related professional associations. Committee member Sen. Jack Donahue recused himself from voting because he has a client in support of the bill. On record as opposing the bill are Jennifer Jones, Cameron Parish Police Jury; E.L. Henry, State Farm; Louisiana Association of Health Plans; and attorneys Yigal Bander, Lawrence J. Centola III, Claude P. Devall Jr., Randall E. Hart and J. Lee Hoffoss. We expect that the committee will meet on Tuesday, May 24. A meeting time is not yet available.
Proponents repeatedly said this bill does not change the law.
Last week after reviewing the bill, one LAJ member aptly described it as legalizing what hospitals, ambulance companies and health care providers have been doing illegally for years. The bill would allow balance billing between a service fee agreed upon with insurers and the full amount providers charge for that same medical service or procedure. It would allow health care providers to refuse to accept a patient's health insurance in a liability accident and allow them to use 9:4752 lien statute to collect the full amount from the judgment/settlement. Thus, it steals the patient/insured's right to use their health insurance and prevents them from receiving the full benefit of the reduced contracted reimbursement rate.
*Amendments include: page 2, line 13 — after "ambulance service," delete the rest of line 13, lines 14 and 15. Sen. Dan Claitor asked that page 2, line 24, be amended to bar use of email or fax notices and instead require notice by certified letter exclusively. Both amendments were accepted with no objection.
SB 61 by Sen. Fred Mills Jr. was not reached today and is expected to be heard next Tuesday in Senate Judiciary A. This bill provides for a constitutional amendment that would allow limited liability for medical and health care providers "in all cases" and for "all damages and losses." All provisions of this bill would be retroactive. If passed, this measure would be on the October ballot as a proposed constitutional amendment.
The state constitution should not allow for select classes to escape responsibility by barring other citizens from full access to the courts. This bill carries an ominous danger. Remaking the state constitution to allow one special group no responsibility under the law will certainly lead to others expecting the same privilege. A cap on general damages would not be far behind.
Wednesday, May 18 — HB 563 Oilfield land contamination bill
These bills require immediate action: HB 563 by Rep. Page Cortez, HB 564 by Rep. Alan Seabaugh and SB 146 by Sen. Robert Adley. Backed by the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association and LABI, these bills create a state bureaucracy that would supersede landowners' rights to go to court over oilfield-related contamination claims. HB 563 and SB 146 create "primary jurisdiction" for the Office of Conservation over all claims of environmental damage resulting from oil and gas exploration and drilling. HB 564 makes "specific performance" the "preferred remedy." These bills are in direct conflict with Act 312 and would require the Department of Natural Resources to prepare a cleanup plan BEFORE any determination of liability and BEFORE any discovery in court to determine the full extent of contamination.
HB 563 will be heard in House Natural Resources Committee Wednesday, May 18. View an agenda. We are told there are amendments but we have not seen any. Contact the sponsors Cortez, Champagne, Katz, Seabaugh and Kostelka plus committee members. Share with them your understanding of the overreaching flaws in this bill, not just as they pertain to landowners' perspective.
Good response to LAJ Legislative Awareness Day at the Capitol
Thank you for all who participated today to make LAJ Legislative Awareness Day a success. Many dedicated members will return to the Capitol next week when the two Senate bills will be heard in Jud A.
View live and archived broadcasts of some legislative committee hearings. Go to Legislature's Web portal to view schedules and instructions on how to tune in. Use this same link to contact your legislators, access information about bills, check committee schedules and more.
The session must adjourn on or before 6 p.m. Thursday, June 23, 2011.