OKLAHOMA CITY — A bill that could lead to multistate health insurance markets in Oklahoma narrowly stayed alive in the Oklahoma Legislature on Tuesday.
House Speaker Pro Tem Harold Wright, R-Weatherford, had to be brought in to break a 6-6 tie in the House Insurance Committee and save Senate Bill 478, by Sen. Bill Brown, R-Broken Arrow.
As it is, SB 478 is consigned to a conference committee, where it may well remain until next session.
The bill approved Tuesday was actually a committee substitute, meaning it is different from the legislation sent to the House by the Senate. It would authorize the state insurance commissioner to negotiate compacts with other states for the sale of individual health insurance policies. These policies would not have to include the 40-odd coverages mandated by Oklahoma.
Boosters of the bill say it would encourage lower-cost policies, albeit with less coverage.
Skeptics worry that it would undermine coverage and lead to higher premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for people with chronic conditions or higher risks.
House sponsor Lewis Moore, R-Edmond, noted that the bill’s title and enacting clause were struck, which means even if it’s approved on the House floor, a final version would have to be negotiated with the Senate.
“This bill is a great idea and an idea whose time has come,” Moore said.
He emphasized that the proposal includes only individual health insurance products, not group plans.
Rep. Collin Walke, D-Oklahoma City, said only five states allow interstate insurance sales and that the oldest such law on the books has resulted in zero policies actually being sold.
He and Rep. Shane Stone, D-Oklahoma City, said that if lawmakers really want to provide low-cost insurance, they should invest more in the existing Insure Oklahoma program, which subsidizes insurance for Oklahoma workers.
45th honored: Earlier in the day, the 45th Infantry Brigade was honored during a joint session of the Legislature. The 45th is the major component of the state’s National Guard forces.
Nearly 950 members of the brigade are currently deployed, including 250 in Ukraine.