As a task force ponders what should be done with the agency that handles state workers compensation insurance, medical industry representatives are pondering how more Oklahoma hospitals can get a slice of the insurance pie.
House Joint Resolution 1031 was introduced during the Oklahoma Legislature's 1989 session with the intention of affording rural hospitals and others outside metro areas the opportunity to participate in the medical reimbursement programs of the Oklahoma State and Education Employees Group Insurance Board.
Backers of the resolution said the preferred provider program now in effect excludes some hospitals and doctors from participating in some insurance contracts. As a result, rural hospitals are threatened and it works a hardship on many elderly people, supporters said.
But, when a furor erupted over management of the health insurance agency, the resolution was gutted and rewritten to call for a 20-member task force to study the board. The measure also put a 10-month moratorium on any insurance premium increases while the director organizes the books to see what rates are needed to keep the board solvent.
About 115,000 active and retired state employees, teachers and their dependents are covered by the program. In April, state auditors reported that the agency's bookkeeping was in shambles and was in violation of state financial accountability laws.
The bookkeeping uproar, coupled with the possibility of major increases in workers and retirees' health insurance premiums, overshadowed the proposal to allow more hospitals and doctors to bid to provide state workers' health care.
Medical industry lobbyists say enlarged access to the Preferred Provider Program was their number one issue this year, and they will work for …