House Bill 2026, A Bill to Reduce Oklahoma’s Uninsured, Goes to Governor

House Bill 2026 will, among other reforms, strengthen and promote the state’s Insure Oklahoma program. The program, which is has been a national model for several other states, is a successful public-private partnership that gives premium assistance to small business workers and employers.  The House passed the final version of the bill with a vote of 95-0 and it now moves to the governor for his signature.

“It is no secret that our state has a high percentage of people who are uninsured,” said House Speaker Pro Tem Kris Steele, author of the bill. “Lacking insurance coverage causes problems for many Oklahomans who struggle to pay for needed health care services, thus creating an enormous cost shift that drives up prices for others. This ripple effect spreads throughout our state economy causing a deterrent for business recruitment, job creation, and the overall health of the people living in Oklahoma. This legislation will remove many of the barriers to obtaining private insurance like cost and lack of options and information while empowering patients to take more personal responsibility of their health outcomes.”

The legislation is based on the work last interim in the bipartisan House Health Care Reform Task Force, whose members sought ways to reduce Oklahoma’s high number of uninsured. The task force released a report that was unanimously endorsed by the Republican and Democrat members alike. The plan is designed to improve Insure Oklahoma by offering more choices for coverage to eligible participants. It also authorizes the use of basic health plans with catastrophic coverage for people under 40 to help reduce costs and increase options for young people who fail to see the value in paying costly premiums for services not utilized.

In addition, HB 2026 establishes the Oklahoma Exchange, a website designed to assist, inform, and empower individuals seeking to enroll in an affordable insurance plan. House Speaker Chris Benge, who formed the interim task force, said the legislation received bipartisan support and urged the governor to sign it into law.

“This legislation is the culmination of months of study by both Republicans and Democrats and task force advisory members from various areas within the health care community,” said Benge, R-Tulsa. “We worked hard to take the politics out of this issue and instead put our focus solely on moving more Oklahomans onto the private health insurance rolls. We know that a single-payer, universal health care system is not the answer for Oklahoma and I hope the governor will recognize this bipartisan effort by signing this important legislation into law.”

The comprehensive plan in HB 2026 includes:

Reform/improve Insure Oklahoma – Insure Oklahoma is an effective public-private model for providing assistance to Oklahomans who meet certain eligibility requirements and are seeking health care coverage. The program can be improved by offering more choices. HB 2026 directs both the employer-sponsored insurance and individual insurance plans to offer additional low-cost options, such as high deductible plans compatible with health savings accounts. Also, Insure Oklahoma would be modified to be more customer-friendly, especially at the point of eligibility determination and enrollment.

Reform the Individual Market – HB 2026 will enable insurance providers to offer basic preventative plans with catastrophic coverage by relaxing mandates so more low-cost choices can be offered to uninsured Oklahomans.

Establish the Oklahoma Exchange – The plan builds upon the current infrastructure to provide a service to assist individuals seeking to enroll in an insurance plan that would best meet their needs.

Establish Enrollment Options at Point of Access – In order to provide greater access to private health insurance and strengthen the marketplace for insurers, hospitals, physicians and other health care providers, cost-shifting must be reduced to moderate premiums. Under this model, the Oklahoma Exchange would be used to proactively connect individuals without health insurance to coverage options.

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