Monday, September 15, 2008

"One Size Fits All" Does Not Work

What if you had a pressing need for a new car? And what if, when you went to buy a new car, the only vehicle you were allowed to purchase was a luxury vehicle with all options pre-installed? Can you imagine how many Oklahomans would be unable to afford transportation if this scenario were a reality?

One of the most pressing topics the Legislature deals with each year is health care. The issue is of added importance because Oklahoma has the fourth highest population of uninsured people. The most obvious reason for this lack of coverage is the high price of purchasing insurance in Oklahoma.

The average price of a job-based health insurance policy in Oklahoma is $4,088. The national average is $3,991. Oklahoma's median income is significantly lower than the national average, which means that Oklahomans pay higher health insurance costs with a lower average income.

One of the reasons for high insurance fees in Oklahoma is because the Legislature has driven up the cost over the years by mandating a "one size fits all" approach to coverage.

Policies become even more expensive when the Legislature approves new laws to mandate the coverage of any number of heartbreaking medical situations that have not traditionally been covered by health insurance policies. Over time, the number of mandates adds up to create a very expensive insurance policy. And there is no shortage of medical issues currently not covered that will no doubt be mandated in the coming years.

A State House panel heard testimony recently which indicated that across the nation mandated benefits that will increase the cost of basic health coverage from about 20 percent to more than 50 percent, depending on the state and its mandates.

While elected officials understandably wish to expand coverage to include as many medical conditions as possible, the long-term effect can be detrimental, because fewer people will be able to afford coverage. This is why it is important that Oklahoma allow insurance companies to provide basic insurance coverage without all the attached mandates.

One of the exciting developments of the latest legislative year was the passage of a law in Florida that allows the uninsured to purchase these types of policies. Now, instead of being forced to buy the equivalent of a luxury car, prospective insurance customers can buy a product that better fits their financial needs.

I believe it is important for Oklahoma to follow Florida's lead and enact this common-sense legislation. Further, Oklahoma should enact legislation that will allow the customers of this product to choose additional specific coverages that would fit their needs. For instance, senior citizens would not wish to pay for medical coverage for issues that affect only children or young people, and young people have no need for medical coverage that only senior citizens need.

Simply put, the "one size fits all" approach does not work.

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