FOR years, Oklahoma Republicans have opposed insurance mandates, once killing a bill mandating coverage for certain autism treatments. That was the right call. The mandate would have increased consumer costs and ultimately increased the number of uninsured Oklahomans. Plus, some autism treatments weren't clinically proven and insurers were already starting to voluntarily offer targeted coverage.
The current crop of Republican lawmakers seems to have forgotten those lessons. Under Senate Bill 765, legislators would mandate insurance coverage of a pill form of chemotherapy. As with the autism mandate, proponents tell heart-rending stories of individual woe and paint insurance companies as greedy vultures. Yet the reality of mandates remains the same: They interfere with market flexibility, impact the cost of insurance and can increase the number of people without coverage.
The bill's proponents did their best to ignore reality. Rep. David Derby, R-Owasso, said 50 percent of insurance companies already provide the coverage and claimed the bill benefited all insurers by reducing costs, saying the price difference between two versions of one particular treatment was $50,000.
This led Rep. Steve Kouplen, D-Beggs, to sensibly ask, “Why not let the private sector make their own mistake and lose this money? Why do we have to save them from themselves?”
Indeed. No one forces consumers to buy insurance from companies providing shoddy coverage. If Derby's figures are correct, those insurers would appear headed for insolvency. Even in the best light, SB 765 appears a triumph of political posturing over substance.
Unfortunately for its supporters, Rep. Glen Mulready made clear the mandate is what it seems — heavy-handed political interference in the free market. Mulready, R-Tulsa, said all insurance plans already cover oral chemotherapy drugs. The bill, he noted, mandates how insurers pay for chemo pills by requiring coverage under the prescription portion instead of the medical portion of the plan.