Bills May Change Health Insurance Coverage

Article excerpt

By late this year, Oklahomans with health insurance may be able to walk out of a doctor's or dentist's office without having to plunk down payment in full.

Instead, if the patient so desires, the doctor or dentist will have to file the form to be paid directly by the patient's insurance company.

It was one of two bills dealing with health insurance passed by the Legislature in its waning days last week. The other sets up a state program designed to encourage Oklahoma employers to provide health insurance coverage for their employees.

The Oklahoma Freedom of Choice Act provides that all doctors and dentists licensed by the state must accept payment from the insurance company if the patient wants it that way.

It also specifies that the requirement applies to any ``person, firm, corporation or other legal entity'' licensed to provide health care services, procedures or supplies ``in the ordinary course of business or practice of a profession.''

If signed by Gov. Henry Bellmon, the bill would become law Sept. 1.

The bill was attacked in the House by several members, who contended it would put a burden on doctors. But Rep. Cal Hobson, D-Lexington, sponsor of the bill, told them that there were more ordinary citizens than doctors who were their constituents.

A patient would be able to require health care providers to accept payment directly from the insurance company if three conditions are met.

These are that the patient must assign the benefits in writing to the health care provider; a copy of the assignment must be provided by the health care provider to the insurance company, and the claim must be submitted to the insurance company on a form prescribed by the state insurance commissioner.

The bill to encourage employers to offer health care coverage to their employees would become law July 1 if Bellmon signs it. …