Thursday, August 20, 2009

I was pleased to participate in a health care town hall meeting this past Thursday in Lawton with several other local legislators. The topics of this meeting were based on current Oklahoma law and potential legislation which could be heard in the future. Unlike many of the scenes we have viewed on television, this meeting was civil and an honest dialogue occurred with those fifty citizens present. There was some discussion on the federal policies which are being debated in Congress, but most of the evening was spent on what Oklahoma can do to improve on the current system.

I think most of us would agree that a federally-run program will not help things, especially in light of what we have seen from past experience. If I were able to have input, I would look at more oversight on the existing programs and ask for accountability in those private sectors businesses. The number one problem I think we have as Americans is the insurance industry’s denial of many legitimate claims. Some of my friends owned a medial billing company for a time and I worked with them in this business. I was disappointed to see how certain procedures have to be “coded” correctly on the submission or they would be rejected and more time and money spent on fixing the forms by resubmitting them rather than a phone communication to correct the error. I personally have argued with insurance companies over my own health claims and for constituents who have had legitimate complaints over wrongful denials. I saved myself $600 on a knee brace after my surgery just because I caught an error by the insurance company on a denial. We have to be personally responsible and watchful of all the bills that come through on health claims.

In the past, I have filed amendments to bills dealing with prompt-pay and advertising of costs. These are two factors which I feel will help drive competition in the medical market and save money for patient. Prompt-pay requires the insurance companies to pay claims in a timely manner and file denials in that same period rather than drag out the bill. Often times, doctors will not receive reimbursement for months in some states due to wrongful denials. We have a decent law already on the books in Oklahoma , but it needs to be enhanced to provide for a better time frame for payment. I also feel that doctors should notify patients on an anticipated cost of procedures so patients will know what to expect and also to prevent different costs on the same procedure for those with insurance and those without. This is a problem in the system where those of us with insurance often foot the bill for patients who go to the emergency rooms and then cannot pay their bills. I intend to work with some of the officials in the health care arena on ways to look at a fix in both these areas for this next session, along with a way to help the doctors remove providers who have continual problems and drive up their cost of insurance.

We passed a tort reform bill at the state level this last session which many claim will drive down the costs with unfair lawsuits. I’m hoping this area will just be the beginning at the state and we can look at the other areas of waste and unfair practices.

The area of health care is something that needs to be openly discussed and much thought put into the changes. The politicians need to look at change in the system, but not an over reaching policy that will hurt many of those who they claim to want to help. Experts on all sides need to be at the table discussing and recommending policies. We also need to expect some major overhaul of accountability, but not see any reduction on the care we expect as Americans. This is a tough road, but it is one that is necessary before the system gets further out of control.

On another note, I want to thank the Fort Sill/Apache tribe for their investment in an environmental program which they have started. They purchased a $9,000 trailer through an EPA grant which will allow citizens to recycle plastics, cardboard, newspapers and other items in the Apache area. I hope more groups will look at programs like this so we can lessen the impact on local trash dumps. Jerri Davis and Bobby Claborn initiated this program and I was on hand to see it with Chairman Jeff Houser, Councilperson Robin Isom and City Councilor David “Joker” Johnson last week.

I would also encourage all citizens interested in a good political debate to show up at the Caddo-Kiowa Career Tech at Fort Cobb on August 24th at 7:30 pm. There will be a discussion with the two Democratic Candidates for the special election in House District 55, the seat vacated by former Rep. Ryan McMullen. This will give the voters in the Democratic primary in the area the chance to meet Alex Damon and Larry Peck, the two candidates who filed for the seat. I hope to see you there!

It is an honor to represent your views at the State Capitol. If you wish to contact me and discuss one of these or another issue, I can be reached at my office in Oklahoma City toll-free at 1-800-522-8502, or directly at 1-405-557-7305. My e-mail address is at work. My mailing address is PO Box 559 , Rush Springs , OK 73082 and my website is on the Internet. Thank you for taking time to read this column and I look forward to seeing you soon.

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