Jonathan Small | February 14, 2017
More options needed for state employees, education employees, other government employees, and taxpayers
State revenues have declined because of Oklahoma’s struggling economy. Lawmakers should look for innovative reforms that allow for government services to be provided at a lower cost. It’s no secret that one of the greatest cost burdens for state employees, education employees, other government employees, and taxpayers is ever-rising health care costs. The state spends approximately $1 billion a year on health care coverage for government employees.
For years lawmakers have been told by bureaucrats that if they just wait, the state’s self-insured plan would implement reforms and improve the performance of Health Choice for state, education, other government employees, and taxpayers. But sadly, the Health Choice staff has dragged their feet on implementing multiple reforms out of deference to special interests that benefit from overspending by Health Choice.
It’s time to introduce competition into the mix to give relief to state employees, education employees, other government employees, and taxpayers.
One common-sense proposal that should be approved has been proposed by Senator Jason Smalley. Senate Bill 329 proposes providing equity for the actuarial mandates for all plans that are offered to state employees, education employees, and other government employees. It would introduce competition, giving employees more options and lower out-of-pocket and premium costs. His reform would also bring external accountability needed for the Health Choice plan, finally encouraging Health Choice to innovate and work on behalf state employees, education employees, other government employees, and taxpayers—and not special interests.
There are only positives to such a proposal. It is false that such a proposal would destabilize Health Choice because too many government employees might leave to participate in a private plan. Health Choice covers approximately 183,000 lives. There won’t be a significant exodus of government employees from Health Choice. As employees choose better options, Health Choice will adapt to best practices on behalf of state employees, education employees, other government employees, and taxpayers.
Senate Bill 329 is the exact kind of common sense reform that should be implemented to better reward government employees and save taxpayer dollars.
Jonathan Small, C.P.A., serves as President and joined the staff in December of 2010. Previously, Jonathan served as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma Office of State Finance, as a fiscal policy analyst and research analyst for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and as director of government affairs for the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Small’s work includes co-authoring “Economics 101” with Dr. Arthur Laffer and Dr. Wayne Winegarden, and his policy expertise has been referenced by The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, National Review, the L.A. Times, The Hill, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post. His weekly column “Free Market Friday” is published by the Journal Record and syndicated in 27 markets. A recipient of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s prestigious Private Sector Member of the Year award, Small is nationally recognized for his work to promote free markets, limited government and innovative public policy reforms. Jonathan holds a B.A. in Accounting from the University of Central Oklahoma and is a Certified Public Accountant.