Wyoming’s First Lady Backs Repeal of Insurance Law

July 15, 2005

First lady Nancy Freudenthal says a law allowing insurance companies to withhold coverage for injuries resulting from drug or alcohol use should be repealed.

Because of the law, she said, doctors and nurses are less likely to ask about or test for drug or alcohol use because it could cause them not to be paid for their services.

At the same time, people who might need substance abuse treatment aren’t identified.

Freudenthal said the law dates from a time when attitudes toward people with addictions were harsher and alcoholics or drug addicts were expected to help themselves, regardless of whether they were able to do that. “We definitely have good science available now about addiction’s effects on the brain,” she said.

Rep. Dave Edwards, R-Douglas, said a bill will be drafted to address Freudenthal’s concerns. Edwards is co-chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Interim Committee, which plans to discuss the issue this fall.

Freudenthal cited a study in the October 1999 issue of Annals of Surgery that said 30 minutes of alcohol screening in the emergency room with a trained psychologist resulted in a 47 percent reduction of injuries requiring emergency treatment within the next year.

“If we can keep them out of the emergency room, that’s a win-win for everyone, including insurance companies,” she said.

Freudenthal’s proposal would allow insurance companies to keep alcohol- and drug-related exclusions for other policies, such as disability or life insurance.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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