(The Center Square) — A bill that would fine health insurance companies that don’t pay claims received a recommendation for passage Monday from the Oklahoma Senate Pension and Insurance Committee.
House Bill 2322named the Health Care Freedom of Choice Act, would authorize the Oklahoma Department of Insurance to hold hearings and impose fines on insurance companies that refuse to pay claims from “practitioners, hospitals, home care agencies or centers outpatient surgeons despite qualifying for compensation as provided in the measure,” according to the summary of the bill.
“The whole point of the bill is to try to facilitate those relationships between the patient and that other, that individual,” said Sen. David Bullard, R-Durant, one of the bill’s sponsors. “I went back and spoke to every administrator at my hospital that I could get about the bill, trying to make sure they were okay with it, and every single one of them. them I spoke to loved the idea, mainly because they end up having to take legal action to recoup those benefits.
Although holding hearings would cost money, it is expected that the department will recover the money through the fines it has imposed and therefore it was felt that the bill would not would not affect the state budget, says the summary of the bill.
Asked by Sen. Marty Quinn, R-Claremore, if the bill presents a downside to patients, Bullard said no.
“I actually see the advantage where they won’t be in conflict with their hospital or their provider,” Bullard said.
Sen. Warren Hamilton, R-McCurtain, asked if the bill was an example of the government getting involved in private enterprise, but also said he planned to vote to pass the bill. Bullard said he agreed the bill would interfere with private businesses.
The committee also recommended adopting House Bill 2487, which would reduce firefighters to 20 years of service to collect retirement benefits. Firefighters are the only workers in Oklahoma’s public safety sector who must serve 22 years, according to the bill’s author, Sen. Zack Taylor, R-Seminole.
The bill would also increase the amount a volunteer firefighter can be paid and still count as a volunteer from $3,600 a year to $9,900, Taylor said.