The Joint Committee on Federal Health Care Law delivered its final report to legislative leadership today after spending the legislative interim studying the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and the effect it will have on Oklahoma.
“Our committee did a lot of tough work digging into the Oklahoma-specific implications of this law. Whether we like it or not, this flawed federal law is going to have a very real impact on Oklahoma’s health care system,” said Sen. Gary Stanislawski, a Tulsa Republican and co-chairman of the committee. “While we didn’t like everything we found, we were encouraged that we do have options as a state to head off some of this law’s harmful mandates so we can keep as much of our health care system as possible under the market’s control.”
“The only true way to overturn this law is through the courts, which Oklahoma and other states are already pursuing, and at the ballot box, where we hope Republicans are victorious in the presidential election in November. Since neither of those options are guarantees, we must be proactive in the event that those outcomes don’t materialize,” said Rep. Glen Mulready, a Tulsa Republican and co-chairman of the committee. “As the elected leaders of this state, we must protect Oklahoma’s best interests rather than burying our heads in the sand. That’s why our committee has worked diligently to find proactive, protective ways for Oklahoma to address this law.”
Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, and House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, formed the Joint Committee on Federal Health Care Law near the conclusion of the 2011 legislative session. Beginning in September, the committee held five public meetings and received testimony from dozens of experts from the public and private sectors. The report includes a synopsis of information presented at those meetings and resulting recommendations from the committee.
“We hope our report proves useful to the Legislature and that our colleagues give these issues the careful attention our committee did,” Mulready said.
The committee has established a clearinghouse website, www.okhealthcare.info, for convenient public access to video and audio recorded committee meetings as well as an electronic copy of the final committee report.
Stanislawski added: “I would like to commend my fellow committee members for taking on a complex topic and working toward solutions that are in Oklahoma’s best interest. We brought the public and private sectors together to develop fact-based options for Oklahoma to consider as we tackle this new federal law.”
The committee’s final report (attached) recommends that Oklahoma: Continue to fight the federal health care law in court; better educate the public about ways to improve their health; prepare for a dramatic expansion of Medicaid eligibility due to PPACA; begin developing a market-based state health insurance exchange in order to prevent imposition of a federal exchange in Oklahoma; form a permanent legislative committee to monitor issues related to the federal health care law; and increase medical residency programs in order to address current and future doctor shortages – particularly in rural areas.
Regarding health insurance exchanges, the report recommends Oklahoma begin taking steps to implement a state-based, free market health insurance exchange. The recommended exchange is similar to the one in development by the state of Utah since before PPACA’s existence. Utah’s exchange model was recommended to the committee by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn. The recommended Oklahoma exchange would be housed in Insure Oklahoma, which would be spun off from the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and turned into a public trust.
“Beginning development of our own state-based, free market exchange is clearly the best way to stop the federal government from barging into Oklahoma to build a highly-regulated, anti-free market federal exchange we don’t want or need. The last thing any state needs is a government health care takeover,” Stanislawski said.
Under PPACA, states must have a framework for an exchange in place by Jan. 1, 2013 or the federal government will begin setting up a federal exchange in the state to be operational by January 2014. Health insurance exchanges are online marketplaces where businesses and consumers can shop for health insurance.
“Working toward a state exchange is the most realistic step Oklahoma can take to prevent an unwanted federal takeover in our health care system and insurance markets,” Mulready said. “This would be an Oklahoma exchange run by Oklahomans the way Oklahomans want it run. It would have no federal hands on it whatsoever. If you’re opposed to the federal health care law, you should be for this state-based exchange because it is the most defensive position we can take to prevent Barack Obama’s team from coming in and imposing their own exchange upon Oklahoma. We know Oklahomans can serve Oklahomans far better than Barack Obama.”