Monday, July 19, 2010

State Employee Health Insurance Reform

During my last three updates I have written about the reforms proposed in this year’s Senate Bill 2052 -- and I have explained our goal of driving down costs to Oklahoma taxpayers by providing health insurance to state and education employees.

The bill sought to use some of the more innovative concepts which are working in the free market. I believe if these ideas were replicated by more businesses in the private sector and organizations such as the state of Oklahoma, the result would be a reduction in health care costs. This would deprive the federal government of their number one issue for advocating for the expansion of the federal government’s role in health care.

I originally wrote this series of articles in response to a constituent who supports the federal legislation. He asked why those of us who oppose the federal legislation did not introduce ideas of our own, so I made a note to write about innovative ways to control health care costs.

It is important to note that these innovative reforms were not the only components of Senate Bill 2052. The effort to draft this legislation started after the state’s self insurance program failed to pay many doctor’s claims in a timely manner. This prompted a number of health care providers to contact their legislators and ultimately resulted in the creation of a legislative working group to review the manner in which the state manages its health insurance program. The legislation evolved to address any number of health care reform issues, most of which I have not yet had the opportunity to write about.

One major outcome of this legislation (had it not been vetoed by the Governor) would have been the consolidation of the two agencies which manage health care benefits. There has been enormous tension between these two agencies because consolidation has been viewed by past legislatures as the logical starting place for achieving cost savings due to the duplicative nature of their organizational structures. Each of these agencies has worried about being consolidated into the other and this tension has resulted in a huge amount of political intrigue as they have battled for survival by building relationships with legislators over the years.

Because of these battles, the consolidation has never been implemented, even though the streamlining of benefits administration is extremely practical. Senate Bill 2052 represented the breakthrough that put aside politics, consolidated administrative functions and sought to realize what may have amounted to million of dollars in savings for Oklahoma taxpayers.

I have enjoyed the opportunity to present this legislation to the House and look forward to advancing these reforms once again during the next legislative session.

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