Oklahoma-Style Health Care Reform

By State Rep. Mike Sanders

Legislation moving through the Oklahoma Legislature will do far more to address health care problems for Oklahomans than the federal health care legislation passed a year ago.

The discussion of House Bill 2130 has created some confusion, because it involves the makeup of the board that will oversee the implementation of a federally-funded online exchange that will help consumers choose the best coverage options available to them.

This online exchange idea comes from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C. It originated in 2000, long before the federal health care plan. The request was made to the federal government to return part of the funds to be used for the federal health care law to states in order to allow them to establish an exchange.

I do support the idea of an exchange as it is a cheap and efficient way to build a better health insurance marketplace, one that truly empowers individuals and small-business owners to purchase plans that best meet their needs.

Governor Mary Fallin has said that she is accepting the grant because the alternative is to allow the federal government to set up their own exchange without the input of Oklahoma. The grant consists of millions of dollars, which is far more than is needed, but she has vowed to return any unused funds.

Two other bills will also help Oklahoma take care of its health care issues as Republicans in Congress try to repeal Obamacare. The idea behind House Bill 2075 and Senate Bill 722 is to operate outside of the federal health care law. The first is the Health Insurance Purchasing Group bill, which will help small businesses by allowing them to form associations to buy health insurance. Senate Bill 722 is the Healthcare Compact Bill, which will allow us to compact with other states and actually supercede federal law if approved.

I would also like to highlight a Senate committee’s passage of my legislation to increase the maximum authorized amount for blanket purchase orders that counties may issue from $2,500 to $5,000. The intent of House Bill 1052 is to give counties flexibility in addressing day-to-day expenses. I was also able to get a Senate Bill passed that will designate the Interstate 44 bridge that crosses the Red River on the way to Wichita Falls as the President George W. Bush Bridge.

As always, I would love to hear from you. I can be reached at the Capitol at (405) 557-7407.

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