Health insurance compact options emerge in Oklahoma Legislature
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Published: 31-Mar-2011

 Senate Bill 57, by state Sen. Bill Brown and state Rep. Mike Ritze – both Broken Arrow Republicans -- would create the Health Care Choice Act. Under the bill, Oklahomans could purchase health insurance policies from out-of-state insurance companies.

 “By increasing consumer choice and competition, this legislation could drive down health insurance costs for working families,” said Ritze, a Broken Arrow Republican and physician. “Because this proposal relies on the free market, it will give greater power to consumers and, ultimately, a better product.”

 Under the bill, the state insurance commissioner would negotiate compacts with other states to allow the interstate purchases. The compacts would be subject to disapproval by the Legislature or governor.

 The commissioner would then administer and enforce any requirements placed on an insurance company under the compacts.

 On March 7, Senate Bill 57 previously passed the state Senate on a bipartisan 42-3 vote. Today (Thursday, March 31), it passed out of the House Insurance Committee, 8-2. It now goes to the floor of the Oklahoma House.

 Also alive in the Oklahoma House is a health care compact measure, Senate Bill 722, co-sponsored by Sen. Clark Jolley of Edmond and state Rep. Glen Mulready of Tulsa. It advanced from the Senate March 15 in a 33-11 vote. 

 Health care compacts can be compared to interstate compacts which exist on a wide range of issues, including oil and gas. Eric O’Keefe, a critic of the Obama administration’s health care bill passed in 2010, is chairman of the national Health Care Compact (www.healthcarecompact.org). Although voluntary, when agreed to by Congress under Article I, section 10 of the U.S. Constitution, compacts have the force of law. 

 O’Keefe says a health care compact, “is a governance reform, not a health care reform.” O’Keefe and other advocates of the idea want to shift responsibility for health care regulations away from Washington and toward the states. 

 
Note: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report. Portions of this story first appeared in The City Sentinel, March 31, 2011 edition. 

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