Okla. House passes mandate-free health insurance bill - KSWO, Lawton, OK- Wichita Falls, TX: News, Weather, Sports. ABC, 24/7, Telemundo -

Okla. House passes mandate-free health insurance bill

Lawton_Oklahoma House members passed a bill on Thursday designed to decrease the number of uninsured Oklahomans, and one Lawton insurance agent is doubtful it will work.  The bill would allow mandate-free health insurance policies for people under 40 years old.  Currently all health insurance policies in Oklahoma require the company to cover many standard procedures - from childhood immunizations to mammograms.  There are 36 such requirements, and some lawmakers say they feel they are driving up some health insurance premium costs.  They say the want people to have the option of purchasing less expensive policies without them, while still covering catastrophic illness or accidents.  Only two lawmakers voted against the bill.

Out of Oklahoma's estimated 600,000 uninsured, about 60% are between the ages of 18 and 40.  The bill is designed to help insure a large segment of the population, but will it?  For 25 years John Hester has been helping families protect themselves through insurance, and when he heard about the proposal for mandate-free health care he says he was dubious.  "To me it would an unwieldy situation to say you've got a mandate-free insurance policy," he said.  "I don't see how you can do it - you've got to start selecting coverages somewhere."

Representative Doug Cox ,(R) Grove, describes the mandate-free policy as a core benefits package for catastrophic care.  "This allows them number one an affordable policy, number two it lets them get into the market and get into the importance of having insurance, just like they value having a cell phone, or a pair of designer jeans." 

Would such a policy be worse than having no insurance at all, especially for those under 40?  "That's an age when Oklahomans are healthy," said Cox.  "It's also an age when they feel invincible, and unfortunately that's the age group that fills up our trauma centers and have these huge medical bills - those are cost shifted over to us who do have medical insurance." 

Hester says mandates most often cover procedures that health insurance companies and healthcare providers have agreed are important for preventative care.  It's created a standardized form.  "The buying public can't be knowledgeable enough to understand every single coverage line in an insurance policy," he said.  "That's why we have standardized forms, and that's why we have an insurance department - that's their job."

Now it will be up to the state Senate to decide whether to send the bill to the governor's desk.  The idea for the mandate-free policy came from a House healthcare reform taskforce charged with finding ways to reduce Oklahoma's high number of uninsured.

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