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Two health-related bills go to Governor for signature: aid for rural hospitals, biomarker testing mandate

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

A bill designed to aid finances of rural hospitals as well as one that would mandate insurance plans cover biomarker testing for lung cancer, both won final approval in the Senate on Monday.

House Bill 75, sponsored by Rep. Brandon Reed, R-Hodgenville, will improve access to quality healthcare for each and every Kentuckian, according to supporters, by helping rural hospitals across the state.

Sen. Robert Stivers (Photo by Tom Latek/Kentucky Today)

Sen. Stephen Meredith, R-Leitchfield, who presented the bill on the Senate floor, noted, “I’ve been saying since the first day I’ve been here, the health care system in Kentucky is on the verge of collapse, specifically rural hospitals. Why are they important to our rural communities? Usually that is the largest employer, along with the school system, and their financial situation has continued to deteriorate since I’ve been here.”

He noted that the operating margin for hospitals was -2.29% in 2020, but after COVID hit and elective procedures were cut back, the situation got even worse. “In 2022, the operating margin was -7.4%. This is despite the $1.3 billion we approved; it is still a huge loss.”

The bill would enable hospitals to have reimbursement for outpatient services using federal and not state funds. It builds on legislation approved back in 2019 and 2021 and provides an additional opportunity to harness those federal resources.

The bill passed 33-3, with one abstention.

Biomaker testing

House Bill 180 would require health insurers to cover biomarker testing for cancer patients. Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, left the podium to present the bill to his colleagues. 

“This is a bill I believe that virtually everybody in the chamber can be supportive of,” he said, “and it’s something that we as a legislature should be talking more about. I’ve had enough experience in this area, and discussions with the universities and how medical technology is expanding.

Rep. Kim Moser, R-Taylor Mill and a medical professional herself is the sponsor of the measure, who said biomarker test results enable healthcare professionals to provide a more narrowly directed treatment for their patients, and not necessarily require the use of chemotherapy.

Stivers noted, “Yes, it is an insurance mandate, but the fiscal analysis says it is a minimal cost.”

He added biomarkers are the state of medicine to come.

HB 180 passed 34-0, with one member passing.

Both measures now head to the governor’s office for his signature.

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