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January 11, 2011 8:48 am

2011 Legislature convenes today

Written by Ilene Olson

Healthcare, highway issues considered

The 2011 Legislature will consider several healthcare issues this year, such as preventing insurance fraud and creating health insurance exchanges. Some consider ways to meet requirements set by the federal healthcare reform law, while other measures would exempt the state and its residents from provisions in the federal law.

House Bill 2 would move back the sunset date the newly-created Wyoming Health Insurance Pool from June 30 this year to June 30, 2015.

House Bill 10 would encourage people to report unfair trade practices and insurance fraud. It also would provide immunity from civil liability for people who furnish information about insurance fraud and unfair trade practices.

House Bill 50 would provide $5,000 for a study by a task force of whether the state should establish and operate a health insurance exchange or participate in a regional exchange. However, the bill states that the study would be paid for, as much as possible, by a federal grant awarded to the state for planning and establishing insurance exchanges, which will be required under the federal health care reform law.

House Bill 20 would allow family members to receive payment from Medicaid for caring for disabled family members who are on medical waivers. Current law prohibits family members from receiving payment for those services, but pays other providers for that care.

House Bill 39 would provide $2 million from the general fund as the state’s contribution to the National Health Care Reform Litigation account for the period beginning with the enactment of the law and ending June 30, 2012.

“Funds in the account shall be used for expenses related to litigation concerning health care reform,” the bill states.

Two Senate joint resolutions would amend the Wyoming Constitution to protect residents’ rights to make their own health care decisions.

SJ 2 would create a new section in the Constitution “specifying that no federal or state law shall compel participation in any health care system by any person, employer or health care provider.”

SJ 3 would amend the Wyoming Constitution to recognize individuals’ right to make health care decisions and prohibit specific state actions limiting that right, such as rationing health care, or sanctioning or penalizing providers for providing lawful health care. It also would prohibit the state from requiring an individual or business to buy any particular health insurance or participate in a particular health care system. The resolution also would authorize the attorney general to participate in litigation to protect the public’s right to make health care decisions.

The amendment would not limit the state’s ability to regulate the business of insurance, to license health care professionals, to protect the public health, to provide health care for people in state custody and provide workers’ compensation.

On another health related subject, Senate File 12 would give county commissions in the state authority to prohibit smoking in public places.

Highway funding, safety

Bills relating to highway funding and safety include House Bill 22, which would increase Wyoming’s fuel taxes in phases to help pay for highway construction.

House Bill 29 would eliminate drivers’ right to refuse to undergo testing to determine the alcohol or controlled substance concentration in his body.

House Bill 33 would make it legal for a driver to exceed the speed limit by as much as 10 miles per hour while passing another vehicle.

Senate File 51 would increase the fine for failing to wear a seat belt and remove restrictions on stopping motor vehicles solely for seat belt violations. The bill also would allow local governments to enact laws providing exceptions to safety belt requirements.

House Bill 71 would prevent evidence of a person’s failure to wear a seat belt from being used to prove or disprove comparative fault. However, that evidence could be introduced in mitigation of damages under qualifying circumstances.

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