Thursday, June 5, 2008

Governor Ritter signs bill to support Colorado's trauma care system

DENVER—Governor Bill Ritter today signed Senate Bill 08-011, which supports Colorado's trauma care system by requiring that auto insurance companies provide coverage for medical expenses in the event of an accident.  
With the passage of Senate Bill 11, every auto insurance policy issued in Colorado will include $5,000 of medical payments coverage ("med pay").  The bill also includes an opt-out clause, stipulating that insured drivers can reject that coverage in writing if they determine that they do not need it. 
Ritter explained the value of Senate Bill 11 for Colorado drivers and providers by saying, "Almost everyone has out-of-pocket medical expenses, such as co-pays and deductibles, which could be paid for by medical coverage in the event of an accident.  Senate Bill 11 will help ensure that every Coloradan has the coverage that he or she needs and that ambulances, physicians and hospitals are paid for the critical care that they provide."
Since the state ended the long-standing no-fault auto insurance program in 2003, many drivers have been left without any coverage for accident-related injuries.  The problem was exacerbated by the growing number of Coloradans without health insurance.  The result has been a dramatic increase in people brought to emergency rooms with neither health insurance nor medical coverage on their auto policies who were therefore unable to pay for their care or seek subsequent, necessary rehabilitation services.
A study released by the Governor's office in February confirmed that the switch from no-fault to tort caused unprecedented declines in reimbursement for the state's trauma service providers, including paramedics and other first responders, physicians, hospitals and rehabilitation providers – placing the entire system at risk. 
"Most of us spend no time at all thinking about the trauma care system, but in the blink of an eye it can become the only thing in life that matters," said Senator John Morse (D-Colorado Springs), the bill's primary sponsor.  "Senate Bill 11 supports ambulances and emergency rooms in order to ensure that they are available to everyone and anyone who might need them."
Senate Bill 11's House sponsor Representative Tom Massey (R-Poncha Springs) said, "The responsiveness and expertise of an emergency medical technician or physician cannot be taken for granted.  Particularly in rural communities, we must sustain the system any of us could have to rely on in the event of an accident."
Senate Bill 11 will take effect on January 1, 2009.
"Patients expect and deserve to have their medical bills paid if they get in a car accident," said Steven Summer, President and CEO of the Colorado Hospital Association. "Senate Bill 11 protects Colorado drivers and reduces the cost of uncompensated care"
The Trauma Care Preservation Coalition is a statewide group composed of ambulance companies and other emergency medical service (EMS) providers, hospitals, fire chiefs, physicians and consumer advocates committed to finding viable solutions to Colorado's trauma funding crisis.