Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak is warning state and federal lawmakers that Oklahoma is in danger of having no insurers participate in the federal marketplace 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.”
Doak 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 38-4.
“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.”
Doak has a history of finding solutions to health insurance challenges. 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 healthcare. 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.
The Oklahoma Insurance Department held town halls across the state to get Oklahomans’ input on healthcare reform. Much of the feedback centered around having only one insurance choice on the federal marketplace in Oklahoma.
Lawmakers in the Oklahoma House have unanimously given their approval to a bill that could save Oklahomans money on their homeowners insurance.
House Bill 1720 provides discounts for building resilient homes.
Doak is excited to see the progression of the bill which encourages use of the latest technology to reduce the impact of tornadoes on lives and property.
“Thanks to bipartisan support, our representatives worked as a team to pass this legislation that puts Oklahomans first,” Doak said. “This bill would empower homeowners to prepare for the next big storm and require insurers to factor storm-resistant construction into their rates. Having structurally stronger homes is a major step in reducing the damage and corresponding insurance claims from storms, and that’s why I also expect this bill to pass in the Senate.”
Rep. Mark McBride and Rep. Lewis Moore co-authored HB 1720. If a homeowner retrofits or builds a new home to certain specified standards, the bill would require his or her insurance company to factor the more resilient construction into the insurance premium for the home based on the insurance company’s own actuarial analysis.
“I’m proud that our fellow representatives see the value in this bill,” Rep. McBride said. “Oklahomans will see the advantage of having a stronger home with more affordable insurance rates, higher resale value and a home that can withstand up to an EF-2 tornado.”
“Oklahomans know how to respond when there is a disaster,” said Rep. Moore. “But what if we could spare the heartache of a family who just lost their home in a tornado? Resilient construction just makes sense for our state, and I look forward to continuing to work with the insurance industry and Commissioner Doak on this important issue.”
HB 1720 now heads to the Senate. Sen. John Sparks is the Senate author on this legislation.
“I’m looking forward to being this bill’s champion in the Senate,” said Sen. Sparks. “It’s a valuable tool to help all of us get through each storm season with more peace of mind.”
The bill does not mandate building codes or standards. It uses the fortified construction standards set by the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety (IBHS) or the recently-adopted building code for the City of Moore as the designated standards.
The Disaster Resilience Network (DRN) in Tulsa has facilitated the development and building of several fortified homes in Oklahoma.
“The Disaster Resilience Network has been working closely with IBHS on promoting the fortified Home High Wind and Hail standard designation program in Oklahoma. The passage of this bill is a step forward in building resilient homes in Oklahoma,” said Tim Lovell, DRN executive director.
Doak has been a proponent of fortified Home building standards since witnessing the devastating effects of tornadoes firsthand. At this year’s National Tornado Summit, co-hosted by the Oklahoma Insurance Department, a panel of experts addressed the issue of resilient construction.
“Storm season is here, and we’ve got to be thinking proactively to save lives and property,” Doak said. “This bill is a step in the right direction for our people and our communities to be able to recover faster from tornadoes.”