Jonathan Small | March 4, 2016
Free Market Friday: Health savings now
Thousands of Oklahomans are losing their jobs. This reality means state government will have no choice but to cut spending.
Nothing has put pressure on the state budget like health care spending. The state spends more than $1 billion on health insurance costs for state and education employees.
Health care spending growth is not unique to state government. Families, businesses, and local and federal governments have all felt the burden of the increases.
Health care costs are out of control primarily for two reasons: Lack of transparency in health care pricing and the consequences of government incentives like the preferential tax treatment of employer-purchased health insurance distort costs.
But a movement is growing nationally, led by Oklahomans who are tired of patients being bankrupted. These medical providers are adopting a transparent concept known as bundled pricing, where employers and patients can know the total price of a procedure upfront.
Now patients are traveling from across the United States and from out of the country to have medical procedures performed at places like the Surgery Center of Oklahoma, where SCO’s prices are many times one-fifth to one-tenth the cost of the same procedure at a typical hospital.
Community banks, private sector employers and even local governments have made bundled and transparent pricing a central part of their employee health plans. These employers are acquiring higher-quality care for employees and savings of millions of dollars for both patients and employers. In fact, Oklahoma County alone saw savings for employees and the county of $2 million in just one year.
Seeing the savings, state Rep. Glen Mulready and state Sen. Greg Treat authored legislation that was passed unanimously by the Legislature and signed by the governor in 2015. Just in time for our serious budget crisis, the state of Oklahoma’s self-insured plan Health Choice will begin offering bundled pricing on numerous procedures to its 183,000 covered lives. Based on the savings that Oklahoma County and other employers have experienced with similar populations as the state plan, once fully implemented, the state could save over $100 million and eliminate significant costs for employees. The program begins April 1 with more than 40 medical procedures that will qualify for the new cost savings and transparent price structure.
It’s time for health care savings now; our state budget depends on it.
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.