Column: Pending Legislation Attacks Private Health Insurance, Raising Costs | Columnists

Ericka McPherson Oklahoma Families for Affordable Health Care

Oklahoma Families for Affordable Health Care

It’s a common refrain on Capitol Hill in Oklahoma that lawmakers should pursue free market solutions, avoid costly government mandates, and not support special interests rather than the best interests of all Oklahomans.

When it comes to health care policy, many lawmakers were elected on explicit promises to oppose and repeal Obamacare and other big government health care policies. In this context, it is disconcerting to see so many lawmakers actively working to dismantle the alternative to Obamacare, which is employer-sponsored health insurance that many Oklahomans rely on to manage their health care costs.

Employer-sponsored health insurance relies on the ability to contract with third-party providers to provide coverage for health benefits and other benefits. These providers — health plans — then negotiate with health care providers to offer services at agreed-upon prices, thereby reducing and managing those costs.

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When you go to a provider who is “in-network,” they have agreed to honor their health plan pricing expectations. Similarly, employers also encourage their employees to use pharmacies that sell prescription drugs at lower prices or may encourage the use of lower cost options like mail order.

Networks of health plans are the main tools used in the private sector to make health care more affordable. This longstanding health care model is being systematically dismantled by lawmakers responding to calls from special interest groups, in direct opposition to health care cost concerns expressed by families, businesses and consumers across the world. ‘Oklahoma.

For example, House Bill 3023 would dismantle privately concluded contracts that establish networks of dentist savings. These dentists join a network of preferred providers in exchange for an agreement to serve employees of various companies and their families at an agreed price.

The establishment of these networks ensures accountability and transparency for all parties involved, but above all, it protects the budgets of families and businesses. At the request of dentists who are not currently or possibly in-network and want to charge their patients more, lawmakers are considering dismantling these contractual guarantees for consumers.

If HB 3023 becomes law, Oklahoma patients will pay tens of millions more in dental bills every year.

Senate Bill 1860, and a series of similar bills, would work much the same way for pharmacies. It would dismantle cost protections for consumers and force employers to treat a pharmacy that sells a $4 pill the same as a pharmacy selling the same pill for $2.

SB 1860 would end incentives for employers to encourage convenient and less expensive mail order medicine delivery, even though studies show it is medically beneficial for patients, who are more likely to take medicine delivered directly to them according to a regular schedule.

SB 1860 and other similar measures would benefit some pharmacists at the ultimate expense of patients, families and employers.

Oklahomans should be disturbed by this trend in health care politics for many reasons. These bills will drive up the cost of health care for families, patients and employers.

Individuals’ health will decline as they forego care due to rising costs.

Families will suffer economically at a time when inflation and other world events are already hurting their bottom line.

Companies will have to choose between cutting health care benefits or laying off workers.

This current trend in health care policy by lawmakers is unhealthy and costly for Oklahomans.

Previously, it was taken for granted that legislators were trying to reduce health care costs for the population as a whole; to do otherwise would be unfathomable. Now, however, lawmakers are openly pushing legislation that enriches a few special interests at the expense of all Oklahomans.

If something doesn’t change soon, Oklahomans will be less healthy and less prosperous.

Ericka McPherson is the executive director of Oklahoma Families for Affordable Health Care.

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