Doctors would be allowed to prescribe antibiotics to the sexual partners of patients diagnosed with chlamydia or gonorrhea without examination under a bill moving forward in the legislature.
After three days of debate, the Unicameral advances LB 528 on a 32-to-3 vote with nine senators voting “present”.
The bill takes direct aim at curbing the spread of sexually transmitted disease in Nebraska, especially in the Omaha area. Douglas County health officials report more than 3,300 cases of chlamydia and 860 cases of gonorrhea last year. In 2011, more than 300 babies were born with a sexually transmitted disease, according to Douglas County.
The sponsor of the measure, Sen. Sara Howard of Omaha, says the bill would stem the growth of sexually transmitted disease, which would make for healthier babies. She marvels at the controversy surrounding the bill.
“I had no idea that supporting babies and families and opposing sexually transmitted diseases was controversial nor should it be,” Howard tells colleagues in her closing after floor debate. “We have an obligation to protect our most vulnerable citizens and maybe I’m a softy for that, but just the same I would appreciate your green vote on LB 528.”
The bill allows Nebraska doctors to use expedited therapy, the practice of prescribing medication to the sexual partners of patients diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease even if the doctor doesn’t examine the partner.
Opponents say expedited therapy diverts from standard medical practice. Others insist the bill gives too much power to officials at the Department of Health and Human Services who will write the regulations for the therapy.
Sen. Mark Christensen of Imperial, an opponent of the measure, questions the effectiveness of it.
“I see this as another feel good bill. We pass something to make it better. It’s not going to do it,” Christensen predicts.
LB 528 will return for another round of debate, before it can advance to final consideration.
AUDIO: Sen. Sara Howard closes debate on LB 528. [1 min.]