State Senator Jim Wilson, (D-Tahlequah) filed several legislative amendments this week in an attempt to make preventative healthcare more accessible to all Oklahomans and hold insurance companies accountable to Oklahoma policy holders.
“Oklahoma is in the midst of a healthcare crisis,” Wilson said. “The health of our state is a critical issue. It is a non-partisan issue. This legislation represents a step in the right direction. It is a win-win for the healthcare providers and their insured.”
Senator Wilson’s amendments will direct any health benefit plan offered in Oklahoma to provide coverage for preventative health care services including physicals and testing regardless of whether the provider/laboratory for these services is considered in-network for any insurance company. Policies would be required to cover 100 percent of contracted allowable services, but no more than Medicare care allowable for each service. It also states that laboratories must have Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment certification.
A 2006 study released by ProCheck for Health, a non-profit organization, found a high number of participants who displayed one or more risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Out of 1,368 participants statewide, 591 or 43 percent tested positive for inflammation; 533 or 39 percent had high cholesterol. Additionally, the study found 28 new cases of diabetes; 23 new cases of prostate disease and 78 new cases of kidney disease. Requiring insurance companies to cover preventative healthcare services would reduce these numbers drastically and in end save Oklahoma taxpayers and insurance companies thousands of dollars that would otherwise be spent on treating acute illnesses.
“These numbers are an epidemic,” Wilson said. “It is no surprise that Oklahoma ranks near or at the bottom in so many healthcare categories. When one simple blood sample can head off a range of potentially catastrophic health conditions and their associated costs, I have to ask for what reason exactly are we not requiring insurance companies to cover preventative healthcare services?”
Senator Wilson said more businesses are offering on-site and mobile health clinics for their employees. He highlighted a recent news story in which a Tulsa company started an on-site health clinic and as a result that firm’s medical costs per employee are 20 percent below the national average.
“Investing in preventative health care measures is a wise business investment,” Wilson said. “Keeping Oklahomans healthy from the get-go prevents disease and saves employers and the state money in the long-run.”
Senator Wilson points out that one of the top 10 recommendations from a statewide study conducted by the Oklahoma Insurance Department was to provide tax credits for businesses that provide evidence-based prevention and wellness programs in the workplace.
“The people of Oklahoma have come to recognize the value of preventative healthcare and are looking to us to enact meaningful legislation,” Wilson said. “On the other side of the coin, providers are finding that offering preventative measures actually saves them money in the long run and helps to keep healthcare costs down. The insurance companies should be held accountable to their policy holders, especially when it is in their own best interest.”