Senate OKs early intervention mandate

The state Senate passed a bill Thursday requiring private insurance companies to cover early intervention services, over the objection of some Republicans who complained that it would raise insurance premiums.

The coverage would benefit primarily those with developmental disabilities under age of 3, after which school districts start to pay for such services.

Supporters argued that the cost would be minimal, less than a third of a percent of a policy’s premium, and that would be more than offset by savings to insurers as well as the schools and Medicaid, which can avoid more costly interventions later on.

Opponents pointed to a last-minute estimate from the state Insurance Department that said the state’s insurance bill would increase by more than 6 percent if the bill passes. They also noted that Anthem, the state’s largest insurer, already provides the coverage, and this would only limit the chance of those without children to buy cheaper insurance.

“Here we are mandating more cost to the insurance companies,” said Sen. Robert Letourneau, R-Derry.

But supporters countered that most employees don’t make that choice — their employers do.

“Most people don’t have a true choice of where they purchase their insurance from,” said Sen. Margaret Hassan, D-Exeter.

In the end, the Senate approved the measure on a voice vote and sent it to the Senate Finance Committee, which will try to figure out why cost estimates differ so much.

The Senate also passed a bill over to the House that would require any organization that offers architectural services to be certified by the state.

Supporters said that some firms without licensed architects have been advertising such services. Opponents were worried that homeowners or small contractors couldn’t make simple drawings without hiring an architect, but supporters said that wasn’t the intent of the bill. – BOB SANDERS

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