One last update on what we accomplished during our 2010 Regular Session, and then I’ll give things a rest until our special session on the budget, which the governor says he intends to call sometime later this month.
There are two health care bills in particular I want to bring your attention to. Senate Bill 18 ensures that cancer patients don’t lose their insurance coverage when they join a clinical trial. Cancer is one of those diseases that we’re always learning more about, and clinical trials are the most promising way to do that. These trials, usually sponsored by research hospitals like UK’s Chandler Medical Center, try innovative treatments on patients who don’t respond to the more traditional things like radiation and chemotherapy.
Until now, however, insurance companies have been allowed to refuse coverage on the ordinary needs of patients if they join a clinical trial, even if their treatment had little or nothing to do with the trial. That puts patients and their families in the position of being forced to choose between life-saving treatment and effective insurance coverage. SB 18 will make sure they don’t have to make such a dangerous choice by requiring insurance companies to cover the ordinary medications and treatments outside the scope of the clinical trial, where therapy is provided for free anyway.
Another bill, SB 4, will clear up confusion on our state organ donor registry. Many people know they can donate their organs when they die by placing an orange sticker on their driver’s license and having two witnesses sign it. Still, it’s common for relatives to trump a person’s decision if their wishes aren’t more explicit. And in cases where people don’t want to donate their organs, their families can overrule their wishes.
SB 4 will clarify the law on organ donation so that there’s a way for all Kentuckians to decide on their own what to do with their organs when they’re gone, with families’ wishes no longer the deciding factor. The bill also makes it clear who gets to decide what happens if you don’t make your wishes known.
Finally, SB 4 addresses an issue that keeps many people from signing the registry. SB 4 prevents medical staff from doing anything to hasten your death so that your organs can be made useful. Although we don’t know of any time this has actually happened, it costs lives because people are scared to donate their organs. SB 4 will truly save lives, and I’m proud we moved on it.
As I said, this will be my last column on the accomplishments of the past session, but we did a great deal more that doesn’t get much attention. Although I always wish we could get more done, I’m proud of the work we finished.
You can always contact me through our Legislative Message Line at 1-800-372-7181, or call my office directly at 502-564-8100, ext. 818.