Insurance Report Says More Choices Needed in Rural Areas

The firm evaluating the state’s system of providing health insurance said the state doesn’t take advantage of cost savings that could come from a more competitive system. The report was the product of the State Employee Health Insurance Review Working Group which has been meeting since July in an effort to find efficiency’s in the health insurance system.

The report concludes:

• The functions of OSEEGIB and EBC should be integrated to form a new organization focused not only on the payment of health and other insurance claims but also on the wellness of the covered individuals
• With the merged agencies, one oversight board should be created that would include members from backgrounds including medical and employee benefits, as well as those from legal and fiscal backgrounds
• Include a stronger wellness component, not only within HealthChoice consumers, but those with HMO plans as well
• The state employee benefit allowance is artificially inflated because the more expensive HMO plans—which few state employees utilize—drive up the benefit allowance as a result of the averaging of all offered plans to calculate the benefit amount
• More choice is needed in rural areas of the state

The report also recommends reforming the way state employees can select health care coverage. Currently, employees are given a benefit allowance and can choose their health care provider from 11 plans that have contracts with the state.

Employees get to keep money that isn’t used to pay for their health care.

Scott Barger, Deputy Director of the Oklahoma Employees Association, said the organization has been working with legislative leaders to avoid a dramatic change in the amount of the benefit allowance.

“Changing the way the state employee benefit allowance is calculated could have a dramatic effect on state employees,” Barger said. “Some state employees take the lowest priced options to try and put additional cash compensation in their pocket to make their own budgets work.

“When we talk about changing the benefit allowance, we’ve got to talk about changing state employee compensation. We haven’t had a pay raise since 2006. For some, this is a way to offset that,” Barger said.

The full report is available within the ‘Information’ tab under ‘House Publications’ on the House web site, and also under the ‘Spotlight’ section on the Senate web site,

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