Monday, December 1, 2008

More to the Story on Oklahoma Health Insurance

After writing here about my concern in regards to the statements attributed to Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland and Representative Steele, I had sent an email with those concerns to the insurance commissioner. In today's email I received a thorough and courteous response from Ms. Holland, which I am pasting here.

There's always more than one side to every story, and in this instance, as undoubtedly happens more often than we know, the reporting media took a very small portion of a day-long conference and reported it out of context. Here's Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland's email response:

"Thank you for taking the time to write. As so often happens with media, the story told is not the whole story or even the story. I cannot and would not punish anyone who can't afford health insurance. Allow me this opportunity to clarify what actually took place.

Over the past three years, I have led a public effort involving hundreds of Oklahomans from all four corners of the state and all walks of life to develop a road map that ensures all Oklahomans have access to high quality health care and affordable health insurance. We are very close to having a workable plan for our legislature’s deliberation and, hopefully, enactment. November 20th’s Summit on the High Cost of Health Insurance (the fourth) continued a serious and deliberative discussion as to what must be done to reduce the cost of insurance. Our focus was on improving the quality of health care delivered to our citizens through greater access to primary and preventive care. This can best be accomplished through affordable insurance options that provide low cost access to physicians, prescriptions and necessary associated medical services.

We are in the process of developing such options and conceiving a plan to provide adequate assistance to individuals (dependent upon income) who do not have employer subsidized coverage. Once in place, our challenge becomes how to encourage enrollment.

I would like to believe that those currently uninsured (about 17% of our population, mostly working aged adults) would buy coverage if is affordable. Unfortunately, experience tells us that some individuals simply will not prioritize purchasing health insurance – particularly if they believe they can get “free care” through an emergency room. In reality, that expensive free care is passed on to those who have insurance. If you are one of those, your health insurance premiums are significantly inflated to cover the costs of those who receive medical care and do not or cannot pay their bill. Almost $1 billion dollars in unpaid medical expenses is passed on to insured Oklahomans each and every year.

For a very few minutes out of a thoughtful day-long meeting, we lightheartedly discussed potential consequences for not purchasing insurance. These ideas were not in the form of any kind of proposal or urging, but rather intended to provoke discussion about the need to compel people (particularly the 19 – 32-year-olds who make up a large portion of our uninsured) to obtain insurance – again once affordable options are available.

I care very deeply about our citizens’ ability to get the medical care they need when they need it in the appropriate setting. I have made this the primary goal of my service to our citizens and will continue to do so as long as I have the opportunity. I welcome your suggestions and comments and, again, appreciate hearing from you. Kim Holland"

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