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Patients could get life-saving care quicker thanks to new legislation

Delays often happen when insurance companies must first approve medical procedures ordered by doctors.

NEW ORLEANS — When Cheryl Michelet rang her celebration bell last February for being cancer free, it was a sound she wasn’t sure she’d ever hear.  

“There wasn’t a great prognosis with my cancer,” Michelet said.

It was stage three breast cancer. Michelet says her doctors were surprised it wasn’t stage four. The cancer was so rare, it couldn’t be seen by mammograms or ultrasounds. The need for specialty scans and quick treatment was critical.

“To be honest with you, they didn’t think it would turn out that well and had there been any delay, they feel like it could have been a very different outcome,” Michelet said.

Delays often happen when insurance companies must first approve medical procedures ordered by doctors. Thankfully, Michelet’s insurer fast tracked the scans and procedures she needed.

“You’re fighting for your life. You’re in the most stressful time for you and your family and any delay, it just adds to that stress,” Michelet said.

Senate Bill 112, a piece of legislation moving through the state capitol, is bringing the medical community and insurance companies together, with the patient in mind.

“The health care providers, as well as the healthcare insurers all worked in good faith,” said the bill’s author Sen. Robert Mills.

Sen. Mills modeled the bill after one that passed in Texas last year. It would consider doctors’ past approvals. If they meet a certain benchmark, pre-approval would either be expedited or not needed. Mills says exact details are still being worked out.

“A lot of time the scans that we’re ordering are ultimately approved, it just takes time so if we can remove that time pressure it’ll help everyone involved,” said Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center Hematologist and Oncologist, Dr. Daniel LaVie.

Dr. LaVie didn’t treat Michelet, but says bypassing pre-approval speeds up care and eases patient anxiety.

“When you’re faced with something that’s life threatening, you don’t want to wait another minute longer than you have to,” Dr. LaVie said.

After multiple surgeries and at least one more to go, Michelet says she’s lucky, and hopes this legislation means other patients will be ringing bells.

“Whether it’s cancer, heart disease, stroke, or anything that would require a scan, if the doctor’s in good standing and it’s best practice, then they should be able to get what they need to, be able to do what they need, and save a patient’s life,” Michelet said.

Senate Bill 112 has already passed the senate and was sent to the house. Sen. Mills says he expects it to make it all the way to the governor’s desk and be signed.

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