Nov. 30, 2006 — A new proposal designed to reduce the number of uninsured individuals in the territory was not intended to replace the much-discussed universal health insurance bill still pending in the Senate's Committee on Health, Hospitals and Human Services, testifiers said during Thursday's Committee of the Whole hearing.
"This is a good first step to make sure that all residents have access to quality health care," Sen. Craig W. Barshinger, chairman of the Health and Hospitals Committee, said after Thursday's hearing.
The proposal, included in this year's Omnibus Authorization Act, addresses the concern that many government employees have not used the insurance policy provided by the government to cover their dependents. To that end, the proposal mandates that the spouses and children of government employees be covered under the government's insurance program. If a dependent seeks not be enrolled in the program, they must prove that they already have an insurance policy.
While Health Commissioner Darlene A. Carty voiced her support for the bill during Thursday's meeting, she also cautioned senators against implementing a policy that may not be affordable for employees earning less than $20,000 a year.
However, Carty gave her full support to another proposal creating a "cancer drug repository," which accepts drugs donated by manufacturers or health care facilities and distributes them to local cancer patients.
The proposal is included in the Government Reform and Modernization Act, a massive 247-page bill also being considered by the Legislature.
"It is critical that cancer patients have access to the medications and supplies required to win the war against cancer," Carty said, adding that the repository, coupled with the introduction of screening programs and new surgical techniques will send the message that cancer "no longer means a death sentence."
In an effort to streamline the legislation, Carty also offered several recommendations, telling senators that policies and procedures have to be set up to determine what drugs can be donated, where the repositories will be located and how the program will be marketed.
She added that funds to set up and sustain the program should also be included in the bill.
Senate President Lorraine Berry, in meetings held over the past two days, has said that recommendations provided by testifiers will be taken into consideration before both bills come up for a final vote during a full Senate session scheduled for Dec. 11.
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