Shortly before adjourning earlier this month, the New York State Legislature gave final approval to a bill that will mark a significant change in the state's no-fault insurance system. According to its summary, Senate Bill 7845 "prohibits an insurer from denying benefits for certain emergency services rendered as a result of the insured being intoxicated or under the influence of narcotics." It also allows the insurer to subrogate against the insured for the amount of its payments to the emergency services providers.
Senate Insurance Committee Chair Neil Breslin (D-Albany), who sponsored the bill, pointed out in his statement of support that New York and federal law require health services providers to provide emergency medical services to those in need of them. Current New York Insurance Law permits insurers to deny coverage when the insured suffered injuries while operating a vehicle in an intoxicated state. Consequently, doctors and hospitals frequently end up treating these patients for free. The statement also suggests that doctors avoid testing patients for intoxication for fear of not getting paid, thus passing on medically appropriate screening procedures. This bill, which the governor has indicated he will sign, will permit reimbursement of providers for "necessary emergency health services," including ambulance services and related medical screenings. If the injured person is convicted of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the law allows the insurer to subrogate against him. How likely the insurer is to get its money back is an open question.
The Senate delivered the bill to the governor on July 19. Assuming he does sign it into law, it will take effect 180 days afterword and will affect "all policies issued, renewed, modified, altered or amended" on or after that date.
What do you think of this forthcoming law? Just compensation for medical providers? Reward for socially unacceptable behavior on the part of drivers? Leave your thoughts in the comments.