NU Online News Service, Aug. 11, 2003, 5:59 p.m. EDT – Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster Jr., a Republican, has signed H.B. 1606, a bill that attempts to give health insurers some relief from benefits mandates.

The law based on the bill forbids the state from imposing any new statutory mandate on any state-regulated health insurer, health plan or health maintenance organization between Jan. 1, 2004, and Dec. 31, 2008.

“Nothing in this Section shall be construed to prohibit an employer from electing to expand coverage on any group or individual health benefit plan or policy covering the employer and the employees of the employer,” according to a copy of the bill text.

In June, supporters fought off efforts to amend the bill by adding a provision that would have required any plan that included prescription drug benefits to cover birth control pills.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Dan Morrish, D-Jennings, La.

Links to the text of the enacted version of the bill and other information about the bill are posted at http://www.legis.state.la.us/bills/byinst.asp?sessionid=03RS&billtype=HB&billno=1606