Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Democratic House Members Announce Initiatives to Lower the Cost of Healthcare

Democratic Members of the State House announced today the first part of their Vision for Oklahoma’s Second Century—a legislative package that ensures all Oklahomans receive access to affordable healthcare and prescription drugs.

“Access to affordable healthcare should not just be a privilege for the wealthiest Oklahomans,” said Democratic Leader Danny Morgan, D- Prague. “As Democrats, we will make sure that every Oklahoman has the right to affordable healthcare, while also maintaining a fiscally responsible system.”

“When House Democrats announced our Vision for Oklahoma’s Second Century last week, we outlined five key areas to building a strong, common-sense foundation for a better Oklahoma,” said Democratic Floor Leader James Covey, D- Custer City. “We have responded to the calls of those we represent with legislation that provides affordable healthcare to all Oklahomans.”

The Democratic vision for healthcare contains fourteen pieces of legislation. Highlights of the platform include:

Oklahoma Hospital Quality and Access Act - House Bills 1435 by Lamons and 1354 by Auffet
House Bills 1435, by Representative Lucky Lamons, D- Tulsa, and 1354 by Representative John Auffet, D- Stilwell are measures that would allow the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to assess a Hospital Quality and Access Fee from hospitals in Oklahoma. The fee would be 0.875% of gross hospital patient revenues. Funds generated by the fee will be used to increase the level of Medicaid reimbursement for inpatient and outpatient hospital services, emergency room care and physicians.

“This piece of legislation is imperative to keep our hospitals open across the state, especially in our rural and economically depressed areas,” said Representative Lamons. “A bill similar to this one was supported last year by the State Chamber of Commerce, the Oklahoma Medical Association and the Oklahoma Hospital Association. There is no reason why this bill should be held up like it was last year. It is our responsibility to ensure that all Oklahomans receive the healthcare they deserve.”

Allow Patients to Choose Their Doctor - House Bills 1904 by Hamilton and 2131 by Morrissette
House Bill 1904 by Representative Rebecca Hamilton, D- Oklahoma City and House Bill 2131 by Representative Richard Morrissette, D- Oklahoma City, would give the patient the right to choose the doctor who treats them when injured on the job.

“Two years ago the Legislature took away the rights of individuals to choose their own doctor,” said Representative Hamilton. “This goes against the principles of liberty and personal freedoms on which our country was founded.”

“In our Vision for Oklahoma’s Second Century, we made a commitment to Oklahomans that we would be tireless in fighting for their right to choose their own doctor,” said Morrissette. “HB 2131 is a fulfillment of that promise. The right of Oklahoma’s families and seniors to be treated by a doctor they trust should never be violated so insurance companies or corporate medical groups can turn a profit.”

Put Same Restrictions on Pharmaceutical Drug Sales Representatives as Lobbyists - House Bill 1938 by McMullen
House Bill 1938 by Representative Ryan McMullen, D- Burns Flat, would put the same restrictions on pharmaceutical drug sales representatives as lobbyists. Under the provisions of the bill, drug sales representatives would have to register with the Oklahoma State Ethics Commission and follow their guidelines.

“Oklahomans have asked us to do something about the out-of-control costs of prescription drugs and in our Vision for Oklahoma’s Second Century we told them we would do just that,” says McMullen.

“HB 1939 creates a system of accountability for the single largest costs associated with prescription drugs—marketing. As pro-business legislators and small business people, we have always defended the right of businesses to make a fair profit and we champion investment in research and innovation. However, we will stand up for working Oklahoman’s and seniors who’s hard-earned dollars are being wasted on rounds of golf and trips to the Bahamas. We believe in accountability and we think its time prescription drug companies doing business in our state trim the marketing fat from the out-of-control prices our citizens are being forced to pay.”

Increase Medicaid Coverage for Children - House Bill 1746 by Hoskin
House Bill 1747, by Representative Chuck Hoskin, D- Vinita, would increase the income eligibility guidelines for Medicaid program for children to 200% of the federal poverty level. The current level is set at 185%.

“There is nothing more important than healthcare for our children,” said Representative Hoskin. “This piece of legislation will ensure that more children will have access to the type of healthcare that they need to grow and become prosperous Oklahomans.”

This piece of legislation is nearly identical to the Governor’s healthcare proposal.

Healthplex Specialty Care Access Act
- House Bill 1583 by Lamons
This bill by Representative Lucky Lamons would direct the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to implement provisions of the Act to assist indigent individuals gain access to specialty medical care by establishing sites for delivery of specialty care and to assist in the training if residents and medical students.

Raise the O-EPIC Federal Poverty Level to 200% - House Bill 1747 by Hoskin Representative Chuck Hoskins wants to increase the income eligilibility guidelines for participation in the O-EPIC Premium Assistance Program. He wants to increase it from 185% to 200%.

Geriatric Medical Loan Program
- House Bill 1830 by Kiesel
This bill by Representative Ryan Kiesel, D- Seminole, creates the Oklahoma Geriatric Medical Loan Repayment program within the State Department of Health. The program will, upon available funding, provide educational loan repayment assistance for up to five Oklahoma licensed physicians who have completed a fellowship training program in geriatrics, including geropsychiatry, per year. The geriatric specialists who enter the program agree to provide medical care in a designated Geriatric Specialist Shortage Area of the state for five consecutive years and agree that 30% of the patients they treat will be Medicaid recipients.

Require Private Prisons to Treat Mental Health Patients - House Bill 1844 by Collins
This bill by Representative Wallace Collins, D- Norman, would require private prisons that contract with the Oklahoma Department of Corrections to provide mental health treatment.

Provide a tax deduction equal to health care expenses that are not reimbursed – House Bill 1888 by Morrissette
This bill by Representative Richard Morrissette adds amendatory language which provides a tax deduction equal to the following health care expenses that are not reimbursed:

· Inpatient hospital care up to $50,000
· Doctor visits
· Prescriptions up to $2000
· Rehabilitative care up to $20,000
· Nursing home care up to $20,000
· Home health care up to $20,000

It also adds language stating that resident or part-time individuals with income less than $35,000 are allowed a credit against the tax imposed by Section 2355 of this title fifteen (15%) of the earned income tax credit allowed under IRS rules.

Allow Pharmacies to Sell Discounted Prescription Drugs to Elderly and Uninsured - House Bill 1899 by Hamilton
Representative Hamilton authors this bill that directs the Board of Pharmacy to adopt rules that would allow pharmacies to sell discounted or low cost pharmaceuticals to elderly and uninsured persons. The bill would also require the Board to list all legitimate Canadian web-based and mail order pharmacies on its website.

Assistance for Medicaid Part-D beneficiaries - House Bill 2037 by McPeak
House Bill 2037 by Representative Jerry McPeak, D- Warner, directs the Department of Human Services to establish a program to assist Medicare Part D beneficiaries by paying the amount between $2,000 and $5,000 (commonly referred to as the “donut hole”) that is not covered by the program for prescription medications.

Oklahoma Drug Price Disclosure Act - House Bill 2137 by Morrissette
House Bill 2137 by Richard Morrissette establishes the Oklahoma Drug Price Disclosure Act. The measure requires manufacturers of prescription drugs dispensed under federal or state program in Oklahoma to submit a report to the Chief Executive Officer of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority regarding certain pharmaceutical pricing criteria for each drug.

The bill also provides that a violation of the Drug Price Disclosure Act is a violation of the Oklahoma Consumer Protection Act if the manufacturer sells or offers to sell a prescription drug at price that is in excess of the best price for that drug that has been reported by OHCA.

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