Two recent public announcements here illustrate the state GOP’s health-care philosophy, which is to protect the profits of insurance companies at whatever cost to patients.
First, it was announced that Republican Gov. Mary Fallin, at the request of Republican Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak, signed a new rule that eliminates birth as a qualifying event for health insurance, which means some parents could conceivably be faced with huge hospital costs if their newborn baby has severe medical problems. The reason given for the rule is that it would encourage more insurance companies to offer policies in Oklahoma. This, so goes the doublespeak, could actually mean more children overall would be covered. Thus, some children won’t be covered so other children will be covered only to ensure insurance companies’ profits.
Second, the federal government announced on Wednesday it has rejected Oklahoma’s request to exempt the state from a federal rule, the Medical Loss Ratio, under the Affordable Care Act. It requires some insurance companies to apply 80 cents of every dollar they earn on actual health care or pay rebates to customers. According to media reports, Doak wanted the rule to be implemented gradually through the next few years to prevent what he sees as a disruption of the market, or, in other words, to make it a financially easier for insurance companies. The Feds said no.
Here’s Fallin’s telling take on the recent issue, according to the Tulsa World:
The (Medical Loss Ratio) requirements in the law are particularly harmful to private insurers and may ultimately raise insurance costs for consumers, reduce access to care and destroy private-sector jobs.
I am frustrated that President Obama continues to reject efforts by states to lessen the impact of harmful and burdensome federal regulations, and I remain hopeful that the president’s health-care plan can either be repealed or struck down on the federal level.
Note the “harmful to private insurers” remark comes first before she mentions “consumers.” What about patients? What about Oklahomans who pay exorbitant amounts of money for lousy insurance coverage so companies can earn more profits? Does Fallin care about them? Does she really believe her party’s free-market-at-any-cost philosophy about medical care will result in a better system? It hasn’t so far. The U.S. ranks extremely low in medical outcomes and highest in costs when compared to other industrialized countries. Oklahoma, in particular, has poor medical outcomes.
In a direct challenge, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services argued the new rule lowers health insurance costs for people and that has already been proven true in states where companies have adopted the 80-20 rule.
There’s not much Fallin and the GOP can do about the Affordable Care Act but hope the U.S. Supreme Court rules it unconstitutional or that the country elects a Republican president in November and also elects GOP majorities in both the House and Senate. Meanwhile, Oklahoma officials should abide by the new rules. The old rules didn’t work. Give the new rules a chance. Let’s see what happens.