Senate unanimously passes Sanborn bill to protect life insurance customers amid opioid crisis

Posted: May 30, 2019 | Senator Heather Sanborn

AUGUSTA — The Senate unanimously voted to pass a bill from Sen. Heather Sanborn, D-Portland, that would help make sure insurance companies can’t discriminate against the family, friends and neighbors of Mainers recovering from opioid use disorder. LD 1047, “An Act To Prohibit Consideration of Naloxone Purchases in Life Insurance Underwriting,” was enacted with bipartisan support Wednesday.

“While fatal overdoses are decreasing in our state, the rate is still alarmingly high, with nearly one death per day. No police officer, health care worker or good Samaritan should ever face discrimination from an insurance company just because they want to save a life,” said Sen. Sanborn, who is chair of the Legislature’s Health Coverage, Insurance and Financial Services Committee. “I’m glad my colleagues in the Senate supported this commonsense measure to help Mainers.”

As amended, LD 1047 would prohibit a denial or limitation of coverage or an increase in insurance premiums under a life insurance policy if a person has been issued a prescription for the overdose-reversing drug naloxone or has purchased naloxone. An exception would be made if that person has a demonstrated history of opioid use disorder.

In April 2018, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a public health advisory calling on those who are dealing with opioid use disorder, those who are prescribed high doses of opioid drugs, as well as family and community members who may come in contact with them, to acquire and learn how to administer naloxone. The advisory carries the tagline, “BE PREPARED. GET NALOXONE. SAVE A LIFE.”

Later that year, National Public Radio reported that a nurse employed at Boston Medical Center was denied life insurance coverage because she carried a prescription for naloxone. The nurse carried the prescription as part of her work in an addiction treatment program at the hospital. The insurance company considered the prescription an indication that the nurse abused drugs, although she carried it to save the life of another person.

In order to help combat the opioid crisis in Maine, the 128th Legislature enacted a law that allowed naloxone to be prescribed and dispensed to anyone, with or without a personal prescription.

LD 1047 now goes to the desk of Gov. Janet Mills. The governor has 10 days to either sign the bill, veto it or allow it to become law without her signature.