NU Online News Service, April 20, 2004, 5:50 p.m. EDT – Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher, a Republican medical doctor, has signed a major health insurance market reform bill.[@@]

H.B. 650, introduced by Rep. James Bruce, D-Hopkinsville, Ky., will eliminate regulations that required all Kentucky health insurers to offer standard benefit plans.

Other bill provisions will:

- Ban all new state mandates for 3 years.

- Eliminate a requirement that insurers give written notice of utilization review decisions for urgent care within 1 day of making the decisions.

- Let external review organizations complete most reviews of utilization decisions within 21 days of receiving all information required, rather than within 21 days of receiving requests for reviews.

- Exempt small self-funded plans and other plans with fewer than 500 insureds from some data reporting requirements.

Fletcher supported H.B. 650 and says he will ask health insurers about other ideas for improving the level of competition in Kentucky’s insurance market. Fletcher included health insurance market reform as a goal in his campaign platform.

“The passage of H.B. 650 was a first, yet significant, step in achieving that goal,” Fletcher says in a statement about the bill.

A link to the text of the bill is on the Web at http://www.lrc.state.ky.us/record/04rs/HB650.htm