OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Carol Bush, R-Tulsa, today won passage of a bill in the House Insurance Committee that would prohibit discrimination against a potential organ transplant recipient based solely on the person’s physical or mental disability.
Senate Bill 378 is a request from Edmond parents Rhys and Neely Gay, whose middle child, Everett, age three, was diagnosed with Down Syndrome shortly after he was born and has a congenital heart defect. Everett is healthy after undergoing five surgeries but along the way, his parents learned that individuals with mental or physical challenges could be denied a life-saving transplant simply on the basis of a disability, so they began advocating for change.
“This family’s courage in fighting for the rights of their son and others with disabilities is truly inspiring,” Bush said. “At the same time it’s heartbreaking that this is not already a matter of law. It’s my honor to help usher this bill toward final passage so that Everett and every other person in our state who has a physical or mental challenge will be equally considered when it comes to life-saving treatment.”
Everett’s parents said, “We are so grateful that Everett’s Law passed committee today. We look forward to the full vote in the House and then onto the governor. Today’s vote is such a big step forward for so many Oklahomans with disabilities and their families.”
Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma, is the Senate author of the bill.
Under SB 378, a health care provider or entity responsible for matching anatomical gift donors and recipients may not, solely based on a qualified individual’s mental or physical disability:
- Deem the person ineligible to receive an anatomical gift or organ transplant
- Deny medical or related organ transplantation services
- Refuse to refer the person to a transplant center or other related specialist for evaluation or organ transplantation
- Refuse to place a person on an organ transplant waiting list
- Place a person at a lower position on an organ transplant waiting list
- Decline to accept insurance coverage for any procedure associated with the receipt of the anatomical gift
The bill prohibits health carriers from:
- Denying coverage solely on the basis of the disability
- Denying a patient eligibility or continued eligibility for a health benefit plan to circumvent the requirements of the section
- Reducing provider reimbursement or providing incentives to induce the provider to provide care in a manner inconsistent with the section
- Limiting coverage benefits to a patient for services related to organ transplantation
Twelve other states have similar legislation.
The bill passed the Senate 45-0. It passed the House Insurance Committee with a vote of 8-0. It now is eligible to be considered on the House floor before moving to the governor for his consideration of signing it into law.