Louisiana's insurance commissioner has ordered health insurance companies in the state to continue covering victims of Hurricane Katrina, even if they cannot pay their premiums. A legislative oversight committee took no action late last week on the rule, which allows it to be in effect until at least Nov. 18.
The rule requires insurance companies to pay 50% of the charges incurred when the patient is treated by a doctor or at a hospital. Patients are responsible for copayments and deductibles. The Legislature's joint insurance committee heard objections from two physicians who warned that the rule requires patients to pay more upfront for typical office visits, stiffs doctors and gives insurance companies a free pass for most medical treatment.
Patrick Breaux, M.D., of the Orleans Parish Medical Society said the rule gives the estimated 6,000 physicians who lost their homes and practices little incentive to return to southern Louisiana.
The rule covers people in 14 parishes affected by the hurricane, some of which will be required to show an interruption of mail service that caused them to miss a premium notice. Insurance Commission executive counsel Jim Donelon said that, without the rule, insurance companies could dump policyholders, especially those with costly illnesses.