Doak: State could lose insurance carrier in marketplace

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak gestures during an interview with the Enid News & Eagle in 2014. (File Photo by BILLY HEFTON)

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak is warning state and federal lawmakers that Oklahoma is in danger of having no health care insurers participate in the federal marketplace in 2018. 

Doak said Friday that Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma was “making preparations to withdraw” from the federal exchange, according to Oklahoma Watch. This would leave the state without any carrier offering plans through the Affordable Care Act in 2018.

The number of insurers on the Oklahoma exchange dwindled to just one after multiple carriers sustained significant losses. In a letter to Gov. Mary Fallin and Oklahoma’s federal lawmakers, Doak vowed to protect Oklahomans.

“While I have believed that the federal marketplace’s failure was inevitable, it has become a resource used by many Oklahomans,” Doak said. “In the absence of legislative action to create a solution that can restore the stability of our health insurance system, I will work with the industry to encourage marketplace stabilization and participation.”

In a statement Friday, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma said no decision has been made regarding its participation in the marketplace after this year, according to Oklahoma Watch. The statement added the company will continue to work with “state and federal regulators to ensure a stable and sustainable insurance marketplace for our members.”

Doak said he has been working on state-based solutions to Oklahoma’s health insurance challenges. He has partnered with Sen. Bill Brown, R-Broken Arrow, to pass Senate Bill 478, which allows for the sale of health insurance across state lines. The bill passed the Senate by a 38-4 vote Thursday.

“We want to give consumers more options,” said Brown. “With more policies to choose from, they are much more likely to find a plan that meets their needs. This bill fosters competition that, ultimately, will benefit everyone.”

“This bill is a win-win,” said Doak. “Giving consumers the freedom to buy health insurance across state lines will increase competition, decrease costs and provide better care.”

In 2012, the Legislature passed his proposed bill to create association health plans. It allows small employers to join together and gain access to broader benefits with competitive rates.

In January, Doak submitted ideas to U.S. leaders on changes to health care. They included: permitting sale of insurance across state lines under state regulatory enforcement; adopting policies that expand the use of health savings accounts coupled with more affordable, high-deductible health plans; enacting legislation that protects consumers from unfair balance billing and surprise billing from individual providers like anesthesiologists, radiologists or medical service companies such as air ambulance and imaging providers.

 

Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that produces in-depth and investigative content on public-policy issues facing the state. For more Oklahoma Watch content, go to oklahomawatch.org.

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