Governor Signs McKinney Bill Inspired by Fairfield Residents

July 31, 2008

New Law Eliminates “3-day Rule,” Expands Health Benefits for Children and Adolescents with Serious Mental or Nervous Conditions

Hartford, CT – On Friday, July 25, Governor M. Jodi Rell held a bill signing ceremony in her Capitol office to celebrate a new law that expands benefits payable under group health insurance policies for children and adolescents seeking emergency care for serious mental or nervous conditions. The ceremony was attended by the bill’s chief co-sponsor, State Senate Minority Leader John McKinney (R-Fairfield); as well as Fairfield residents Lisa Gfeller and her daughter Kathryn Laudadio, whose personal story inspired the new law.Sen.McKinney

In the summer of 2007, then 16-year old Kathryn Laudadio collapsed while running on a hot and humid day. She was brought to the emergency room at Bridgeport Hospital and diagnosed with an abnormal heart rhythm. When she was revived, doctors learned that Kathryn had lost more than 10 pounds in the three weeks leading up to her collapse. They asked additional questions and insisted that the young girl immediately begin a treatment program for anorexia. The emergency room doctors wanted to hospitalize Kathryn, but there were no psychiatric beds available.

Kathryn and her mother complied with the doctors’ orders and enrolled in a 28-day treatment program at the Renfrew Center of Philadelphia. It was during the stay at Renfrew that Lisa Gfeller learned that her Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield health care plan would not cover $13,420 in medical treatment costs for her daughter, because of a loophole in Connecticut state law known as the “three day rule.”

Sen McKinneyThe “three day rule” dictated that insurance companies do not have to cover residential treatment of mental illness for children and adolescents unless the treatment starts immediately after a hospitalization of not less than three days. Since Kathryn was released from Bridgeport Hospital the day after she arrived in the emergency room, Anthem was not bound by law to cover her treatment.

Ms. Gfeller, a clerk in the Assessor’s Office in the Town of Fairfield, took her case through two levels of insurance appeals with Anthem, then prevailed in an external appeal through the Department of Insurance, a state agency whose help is available to all Connecticut residents. Unfortunately, Anthem contested the decision, at which time Ms. Gfeller reached out to the press and to her State Senator, John McKinney of Fairfield. McKinney introduced a bill in February of 2008 to repeal the “three day rule.”

“More often than not, the best legislative fixes and ideas for new laws don’t come from lawyers or legislators, they come directly from citizens who recognize a problem and reach out to their elected officials to find solutions,” said Senator McKinney. “The three day rule was an unfair requirement with no basis in medicine. No other state had such a law and many insurers had already eliminated the requirement from their insurance products.”

In May, Senator McKinney offered an amendment on the floor of the State Senate to repeal the “three day rule.” The amendment passed; the bill was adopted unanimously by the Senate and the House; and the Governor officially signed it into law on May 27.

“I am so grateful Lisa and Kathryn had the courage to tell their story and work as hard as they did to help change this law. I hope they serve as an example for others to be more involved in the legislative process when they recognize a problem that their legislators can fix,” said Senator McKinney.

Governor Rell echoed Senator McKinney’s sentiments during last Friday’s bill signing ceremony and the new law will be effective January 1, 2009. In the final analysis, Ms. Gfeller said she is more than satisfied with the results of her quest and in addition to thanking Senator McKinney, who she called her “hero,” she recognized the Attorney General’s Office – in particular, Assistant Attorney General Charles C. Hulin, as well as the Office of the Health Care Advocate, Kevin Lembo. Ms. Gfeller said, “The highlight of our year was being so graciously invited to the Capitol and having the opportunity to meet Governor Rell.”