Study: Law discourages alcohol testing

Oct. 28, 2005 at 3:56 AM
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DALLAS, Oct. 28 (UPI) -- A study finds that U.S. laws allowing insurers to deny coverage for alcohol- and drug-related injuries discourage emergency rooms from testing for drugs.

A September 2005 report in the Journal of Trauma says that Uniform Accident and Sickness Policy Provision laws remain in force in 35 states and the District of Columbia. The laws were adopted in 1947 with the backing of the insurance industry and can allow denial of coverage even for a small amount of alcohol.

"This survey shows that the Uniform Accident and Sickness Policy Provision law is widely used to deny coverage across the nation," says Dr. Larry M. Gentilello, a professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and lead author of the study. "Although this law is terribly out of date, it continues to discourage surgeons from doing what they believe is best for their patients."

Gentilello said that the majority of the injuries doctors see in emergency rooms are alcohol-related. But he said that doctors tend to avoid testing for alcohol or drugs, and providing counseling, because patients could be denied insurance coverage.

The study also found that a single counseling session in the emergency room can reduce future accidents.

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