Kansas families pushing for suicide bill that targets insurance companies

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Two lawmakers said on Thursday that insurance companies aren’t doing enough to help prevent suicide.

Now they’re proposing a new bill that could change what services would be provided to those in need.

Two families that are still grieving over loved one’s suicides met at the capitol with state senators Molly Baumgarder and Tom Holland on Thursday.

The family of Kristi Bennett was there to promote the bill. Bennett committed suicide eight months ago.

She was fighting depression and began drinking heavily. She planned on getting help at a treatment facility, but just when she thought her insurance was going to cover it, they rejected her.

“She was excited, she was so excited to go and feel better, she wanted to live,” said Kristi’s sister, Stephanie Bennett.

A new bill named after Kristi would create a set of guidelines that would make insurance companies provide treatment earlier and not deny coverage. It would also require a doctor’s input in deciding what care is needed.

“It’s the decision of the healthcare provider, not the decision of the insurance company as to whether the patient receives that treatment,” said Louisburg Senator Molly Baumgarder. “We think that’s very crucial that the healthcare provider is in the driver’s seat.”

The Lengquist family is also pushing lawmakers to make a change. They had a daughter named Emma who committed suicide after trying to visit a treatment center in Chicago but wasn’t admitted.

“When they denied her, I had a friend say to me, ‘It’s like the light went out in her,'” Emma’s mother, Marie Lengquist said.

Now her family is fighting so that other families don’t have to go through the same thing.

“What if we attacked the main issue right from the very beginning, what if we said hey, this is somebody that cut her neck, maybe we should be paying attention, that she needs help and let’s keep her in a facility that will allow her to not only stabilize but make the fundamental change,” said Emma’s father, Chris Lengquist.

The senators pre-filed the bill, hoping to speed the process along, and get it into a committee right away when the session starts.

The senators did say that there could be some backlash that lawmakers should stay out of the private insurance industry, but they said the issue of suicide is too important not to address.

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