Coughlin, Vainieri Huttle, Danielsen & Wimberly Bill Ensuring Patients with Disabilities Can Physically Access Doctors' Offices Continues Advancing

Measure Would Require Certain Insurance Companies to Include Accessible Doctors for Patients with Physical Disabilities

(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Craig Coughlin, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Joseph Danielsen ensuring that people with physical disabilities have access to doctors in their insurance network whose offices are physically accessible was released last week by a Senate panel.

"It's important that a critical area like healthcare is fully accessible," said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). "While many professional buildings are fully accessible these days, not all of them are. This will help provide another measure of independence for individuals with disabilities." 

The bill (A-1933) would ensure that individuals with physical disabilities, who have health insurance through a managed care plan, have reasonable access to primary care and specialist providers whose professional offices are accessible in accordance with standards for design under the federal Americans with Disability Act of 1990 (ADA). 

"This measure is long overdue," said Vainieri Huttle (D- Bergen). "Making sure that a patient with a disability has access to doctors whose offices are physically accessible is a consideration that every insurance company should take into account."

"One would think every doctor's office is wheel chair accessible these days but it's not the case for some," said Danielsen (D-Middlesex, Somerset). "Residents with physical disabilities should know which medical office suits their needs before they make an appointment. This information is extremely helpful and will save time for doctors and patients."

"Many places have answered the call to upgrade their facilities and make them more accessible to disabled residents," said Wimberly (D-Bergen, Passaic). "This legislation ensures that residents who need special accommodations will receive help finding offices that are equipped to meet their specific needs."

The provisions of the bill would apply to individual, small employer and larger employer health benefits plans, and plans issued by the State Health Benefits Program and the School Employees' Health Benefits Program.

Under the bill, the procedures must provide that if a covered person with a disability is unable to reasonably access an in-network primary or specialty care provider whose professional office is accessible to the covered person, the carrier must arrange for a provider that is accessible, and if that provider is out-of-network, with the same financial responsibility as the covered person would incur if the provider was in-network. Doctors outside the network who accept the patients would be paid at the in-network rate.

The bill similarly applies these requirements to managed care plan contracts purchased by the State Health Benefits Commission and the School Employees' Health Benefits Commission.

The bill would take effect on the 90th day after enactment and applies to any health insurance contract or policy issued or renewed on or after that date.

The bill was approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee and referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on June 16. It was approved 63-11-1 by the General Assembly in March.