DURANT, Okla. – Hello again, everyone! The Senate continued to wade through dozens of House bills every day this last week. Some were good, some were bad, and some were very bad.
One bill approved this week will be touted as “the solution” to a serious problem we face in Oklahoma: the number of our citizens who do not have health insurance. The reality is that the bill is no solution at all.
House Bill 2026, which likely will go to the governor, would create a “mandate light” health insurance policy for healthy Oklahomans age 40. The policy would not cover any treatments or diseases required by state law. The foundation for this woefully misguided bill is the myth that coverage mandated by law is what is driving up the cost of health insurance.
That increased cost, the myth asserts, is what makes health insurance too expensive for families, increasing the number of Oklahomans who are uninsured. That has been the grounds some legislators and big insurance companies have used to oppose requiring health insurance to cover children with autism.
The problem is the myth is just that: a myth. We have 36 health insurance mandates in Oklahoma; 20 states have less and 29 states have more. For the myth to be accurate, every state with more health insurance mandates should have both higher premium costs and more uninsured. Here is where their myth unravels.
Four of the states that have more mandates and lower average premiums are Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia and Washington. Also, they are among the states with a lower percentage of uninsured residents than Oklahoma has.
Oklahoma has almost 19 percent of our residents without health insurance. In Missouri, the rate of uninsured is12.3 percent; in Washington, 12.5 percent; in Virginia, 13.2 percent of its residents are uninsured; and, in Tennessee, the number is 13.4 percent.
The number of uninsured in individual states has more to do with per capita personal income and the cost of living than legislative requirements that health insurance cover specific illnesses. There are exceptions even to that.
California, one of the most expensive states in which to live, has an average health insurance premium that is cheaper than in Oklahoma. On top of that, California has 14 more legislative health insurance mandates than Oklahoma.
The real purpose of the “mandate light” policy, I believe, is political. It simply gives more fodder to those who perpetuate the insidious myth that legislative mandates are the reason health insurance is so expensive.
A practical problem with the “mandate light” insurance policy is that in many other states that allowed such policies, not a single state resident has signed up for the policy. People are smart, and they know such a policy provides virtually no coverage. Unfortunately, it really does nothing for Oklahomans, which is why I voted “no.”
Thanks again for reading this week’s “Senate Minute.” Have a great week, and may God bless you all.