Bill changing Oklahoma's health insurance plan awaits governor's signature

BY JULIE BISBEE Published: May 28, 2010
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A bill that would change how the state administers health insurance for employees now heads to the governor.

Under Senate Bill 2052, the state's health insurance plan would be competitively bid, and one vendor would insure all employees who chose an HMO insurance plan. The move is expected to cut health costs for state employees who receive money to pay for their health insurance.

The bill passed the Senate on Thursday afternoon in a vote of 38-7 and was approved by the House in a vote of 87-9 that evening.

The bill is a result of an interim study looking at how to reform the way the state buys health insurance. Under the current plan, employees can chose between plans offered by several HMO providers. They are given a benefit allowance, which is calculated based on the average price of all plan offerings. HMO plans are more expensive and increase the average benefit allowance for employees. Lawmakers hope by going with one HMO provider the state can get more competitive rates, said Sen. Cliff Aldridge, R-Midwest City.

Under SB 2052, the allowance for employees would be frozen. Any leftover cash not used to buy health insurance coverage would be put into a health savings account, Aldridge said. The measure is supported by the Oklahoma Education Association and the Oklahoma Public Employees Association.

The bill also calls for the consolidation of the Oklahoma State and Education Employees Group Insurance Board and the Oklahoma Employees Benefit Council. The combined boards would be called the Oklahoma Health and Wellness Board.

"If we're going to start saving the taxpayers money we have to start doing things differently,” Aldridge said. "This is running government like a business. I know we're not a business, but that doesn't mean we can't take principles from business and apply them.”