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Panel Debates Hospital Time for New Moms

January 10, 1996
By: ANGIE GADDY
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The legislative campaign to require insurance companies cover a minimum level of post-delivery care for mothers and their newborns has run into resistance from the insurance industry.

The measure would require insurance and managed care plans provide a minimum of two days hospital care after birth for a normal delivery and four days for cesarean delivery.

Although not formally opposing the legislation, insurance lobbyists told the Senate Insurance Committee the requirement would be too expensive without provisions giving attending physicans clear authority to release their patients sooner than the mandated coverage.

Milton Svetanics of General American Life Insurance said leave it up to the doctors and they would support the bill.

"With some changes it could be acceptable," Svetanics said.

But the bill's sponsor, Sen. Betty Sims, R-St. Louis County, said she drafted her bill so insurance companies wouldn't be the ones making the medical decisions.

"I want the doctor to say when the patient can go home," Sims said. "What I don't want is a secretary in some insurance company saying this woman has to go home."

Mark Johnston of Missouri Blue Cross, Blue Shield said he thinks the bills are too tough on insurance agencies and that legislators shouldn't be making the rules.

"That's the kind of decision that needs to be made by the people who pay for the care," said Mark Johnston of Blue Cross, Blue Shield of Missouri.

The insurance industry's concerns were echoed by one Republican on the Senate Committee.

"The problem I have with the way these three bills have been drafted is that it mandates 48 hour of coverage irrespective of need," said Sen. David Klarich, R-Ballwin. "And that's not good public policy for the state."

In addition to insurance company questions, the proposal also has run into a price-tag problem.

Legislative staff estimate that because the bill would cover Medicaid recipients, it would boost state costs for the health-care program by $3.9 a year.

Even one of the bill's sponsors agrees. "That will be a big stumbling block for us," Sen. Irene Treppler, R-St. Louis said.