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Oklahoma House panel fails to advance insurance measure

The measure, Senate Bill 1059, was intended to allow insurance companies to offer standard health benefit plans, but critics said it would have allowed them to sell policies without providing required coverage.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: May 22, 2012

A bill that opponents said would have allowed insurance companies to sell policies without providing required coverage for such procedures as mammograms appears dead this year.

Senate Bill 1059 received only three votes to advance from members of the House Conference Committee on Insurance and Economic Development. It needed six affirmative votes to advance.

“This bill won't be heard again,” said Rep. Randy McDaniel, R-Oklahoma City, committee chairman.

There's not enough time to hear another version of the bill before this session is scheduled to end Friday, he said.

Rep. Lewis Moore, House author of SB 1059, said the bill's intent was to allow insurance companies to offer standard health benefit plans to any individual or group. State law prohibits such policies being offered to people older than 40 years old.

Moore, R-Arcadia, said he plans to file a similar measure next year.

Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City, said support for the bill was similar to a sales pitch for an expensive luxury automobile that was really a poorly built compact.

“This is a Pinto trying to be sold as a Cadillac,” he said.

Moore said SB 1059 would have given employees the chance to buy an insurance policy at a lower price. Lower premiums would encourage more people to buy or keep insurance coverage, which should reduce insurance premiums for all policy holders, he said.

The standard health benefit plans would make health insurance affordable to people who can't afford comprehensive coverage, Moore said.

“It's about liberty; it's about choice,” he said. “It's not about a state-mandated, socialism-type operation.”

But opponents said the measure would allow insurance companies to avoid providing required coverage. Oklahoma has about 36 mandates that require health insurers to pay for treatment of certain ailments. A health insurance mandate is a requirement that an insurance company or health plan offer benefits for those ailments.

Rep. Mike Shelton, D-Oklahoma City, said people have fought for decades to persuade legislators to pass laws requiring insurance companies to cover such things as mammography screenings, prostate cancer screenings and other procedures.

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