- The Washington Times - Friday, November 6, 2009

NEW YORK | Ian Pearl faced death after an insurer canceled his coverage, but “Ian’s Law” now lives.

A key New York state senator said Thursday he has introduced a bill named after the severely disabled man that would prevent health insurance companies from canceling lines of coverage to avoid high claims.

“The practice of terminating an insurance policy line as a pretext to dropping coverage for individuals who need it most is not only absolutely disgraceful - it’s a matter of life and death,” said Sen. Eric T. Schneiderman, New York City Democrat, at a news conference in a Senate hearing room in Manhattan.

Mr. Pearl, 37, thanked the senator via videoconference from his parents’ home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The victim of muscular dystrophy is unable to travel and requires an electronic device to speak.

“My great hope is that Ian’s Law will end up protecting more people than I will ever know, who will never have to go through any sort of battle again because of this bill,” he said.

“I pledge to continue my efforts to fight for health care reform that protects the most vulnerable Americans,” Mr. Pearl said.

Susan Pearl attended the news conference along with other patients’ family members and reform activists. With her husband Warren by her side, Mrs. Pearl said policy cancellations can be a matter of life and death.

“My family discovered that the cancellation of an insurance plan can produce catastrophic consequences. [It] left us with a question about literally how we would be able to continue saving Ian’s life,” said Mrs. Pearl, who attended a health care reform rally in Washington on Oct. 22 and pressed her son’s case with several members of Congress.

Cindy and Steven Kief, of Sleepy Hollow, N.Y., near Westchester, also attended on behalf of their severely developmentally disabled 11-year-old twins, Jake and Jesse, who has had half of his brain removed. Mr. Kief owns a small business.

“Over the years with many carriers, this isn’t just one carrier, this is a fundamental problem in the insurance industry, they seek us out, they gun for us, they do everything they can, attempting to drop polices that we have paid for.

“Year after year, month after month, sometimes day by day, we are faced with a phone call telling us that something has changed in our policy or that we no longer qualify for the nursing benefit,” Mrs. Kief said.

Coverage for their children has been reinstated, but only until the end of the year, she said.

Like the Pearls, the Kiefs believe their sons would die in an institution.

“Two decades ago, they would have been institutionalized, and they would have been left to rot,” Mrs. Kief told The Washington Times after the news conference. She said home health nurses have often saved her sons’ lives.

The Pearls moved to Florida because the climate is beneficial for their son. Mr. Pearl’s business remains in New York City.

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