With the latest revenue report showing no sign of improvement, Senator Jim Wilson hopes Republicans will be more open to addressing the escalating expense of the convoluted health care system. Wilson, D-Tahlequah, said this would relieve a big strain on state agency budgets and prevent future cuts from affecting critical state services.
“If we continue to cut 5 percent across the board from the general revenue contribution to the budget, we can save $255 million. We can then take $223 million from the rainy day fund to help cover the shortfall. But even those two actions alone won’t be enough to address the deficit – a deficit that could exceed $700 million,” Wilson said, noting the budget picture could be even worse in 2011.
Wilson said a far better solution would be to address the skyrocketing cost to the state of health insurance. The lawmaker said state agencies are facing a six percent increase in health premiums for their employees as well as similar increases for health care services they administer.
“Legislative leaders have repeatedly said enacting tort reform would keep health care costs down, yet after passing tort reform we are still seeing an increase in premiums. As much as we would all like to think competitive markets will work to control health spending, it appears to be naïve to think so. That tells me there is a critical need for more to do be done to fix the problem,” Wilson said.
Wilson said as a result of the current situation, Oklahoma was being forced to reduce funding for vital services, including education, while the health insurance industry continues to reap greater rewards.
“Before we are faced with de facto tax increases in the form of tuition and fees for the purpose of spending more money on escalating health care costs, perhaps we should understand if we are being misled as we were with the tort argument,” Wilson said. “The State of Oklahoma can and should contain its health care costs for the purpose of balancing the budget.”