Oklahoma legislators urged to comply with national health care law

Panel co-chairmen say Oklahoma's junior U.S. senator is encouraging the state Legislature to develop its own insurance exchange plan, or a system where Oklahomans could shop for health insurance.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: November 16, 2011
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A legislative committee was encouraged Tuesday to sift through comments made over the past two months and come up with recommendations to develop ideas on how Oklahoma can comply at a minimum with the federal health care law.

The mostly Republican committee must show action and not defiance to the law pushed by Democratic President Barack Obama, is the advice given by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, said Rep. Glen Mulready, co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Federal Health Care Law.

Mulready, R-Tulsa, said he and Sen. Gary Stanislawski, the other committee co-chairman, met for about an hour Monday at Tulsa's airport with Coburn, R-Muskogee.

Both had asked Coburn to speak to the committee, but his schedule wouldn't allow it.

Coburn is not optimistic that the U.S. Supreme Court will strike down the federal health care law after a conservative-leaning panel of federal appellate judges in Washington, D.C., last week upheld the health care law as constitutional, Mulready said.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide the constitutionality of the health care law, with oral arguments likely to be held early next year with a ruling by June.

Mulready said Oklahoma's junior U.S. senator encouraged the Legislature to develop its own plan. The federal health care law requires states to submit plans for health insurance exchanges if states don't want to use a federal system; the federal government will impose its version of an insurance exchange on states that don't set up their own. The deadline is Jan. 1, 2013.

Mulready said Coburn suggested lawmakers consider Utah's plan to develop an insurance exchange, or a system where Oklahomans could shop for health insurance.

“If I could summarize in two words, his feedback to the committee would be copy Utah,” Mulready said. “These are quotes: You're not going to have a choice; the fact is the law is the law.”

The Utah Health Exchange, formed in 2009, is a web-based health insurance marketplace that serves as a single shopping point for consumers to evaluate their health insurance options and make purchasing decisions.

The Joint Committee on Federal Health Care Law held its last meeting Tuesday. Members will make their suggestions on ideas they like in a couple of weeks; proposed legislation will be crafted from those ideas for next year's session, said Stanislawski, R-Tulsa.

“We want to improve health care in Oklahoma,” he said. “How do we do that?

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