State wants to protect health coverage against suicide
July 2, 2001
DENVER (AP) State regulators plan to forbid health insurance companies from denying coverage to people who have tried to committ suicide.
Since 1999, the state division of insurance has discouraged companies from refusing to pay for treatment of self-inflicted injuries. The division now plans to make such policies illegal and will issue public notice of the change next month, said Erin Toll, the division’s director of the consumer affairs compliance.
Public hearings will be held on the change and the policy should become law by about November, Toll said.
The issue was brought to the attention of regulators three years ago by a woman who was denied payment of $40,000 in medical bills.
At the time, Molly Gough was dealing with the end of her marriage, losing weight and spiralling into depression. A doctor put her on a commonly used antidepressant which ended up triggering psychotic episodes.
She tried to take her own life by inflicting wounds that required surgery and swallowing a bottle of pills. Gough said she is happy and relieved that no one else in Colorado will have to go through what she did.
”Not all people in this situation have the strength to fight like I do,” said Gough, who sold her car and occassionally worked four jobs to pay off medical bills.
Since becoming aware of Gough’s case, Toll said the insurance division has had less than half a dozen complaints from other people. She thinks there may be more people who are afraid to report problems because of the stigma.
According to state health department figures, 6,999 people were hospitalized for suicide attempts in Colorado between 1997 and 1999.