For Immediate Release: May 18,
State Leaders Announce Bipartisan Health Care Reforms: Prescription
Drugs Assistance, Health Savings Account Act Included in Plan
State Republican and Democrat leaders today announced
a bipartisan health care reform plan, including a new system for
prescription drugs assistance and model legislation to make health
care more affordable using health savings accounts.
“I believe our Smart Card initiative and the expansion of
the Prescription Assistance program will help lower drug costs for
many Oklahomans, particularly senior citizens, and I commend legislative
leaders of both parties for their hard work on this important issue,”
said Gov. Henry. “In the months to come, I will keep fighting
to lower drug costs, but I am pleased by the progress made this
legislative session. These efforts will provide great assistance
to Oklahomans who have been struggling to cope with the skyrocketing
cost of prescription drugs.”
“These measures will help those in need, by making prescription
drugs more affordable. We’ll also empower individuals to control
their own health care,” said Speaker Todd Hiett (R-Kellyville).
“This bipartisan slate of initiatives gives hardworking families
the help they need, while offering fundamental changes to our system.”
“The cost of prescription drugs and health care, in general,
are among the biggest challenges many Oklahoma families face on
a daily basis. Oklahoma will never become a healthier state if hundreds
of thousands of our citizens don’t have access to affordable
health care. These bi-partisan initiatives will help ease the financial
burden for many of those people,” said Senate President Pro
Tempore Mike Morgan (D-Stillwater).
In addition to the agreement on prescription drugs assistance and
health savings accounts, the bipartisan plan includes provisions
to boost clinicians in rural areas and to offer increased protections
for the residents of long-term care facilities.
Under the agreement, the state will adopt an Oklahoma Smart Card
system that would help citizens take advantage of existing discounts
offered by pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies.
Oklahoma will also implement a new Rx for Oklahoma program statewide
– increasing access to prescription drugs for the uninsured,
low income Oklahomans and senior citizens through a public-private
partnership. Combined, officials said the Smart Card system and
the Rx for Oklahoma program will assist all lower-income and disadvantaged
Oklahomans in accessing prescription drugs.
Based on the successful Prescription Assistance program in Norman,
the Rx for Oklahoma Act will provide funding to the state Department
of Commerce to establish various access points for the expanded
program, including community action agencies, county offices of
the state Department of Human Services, and county health departments.
Speaker Hiett commended Rep. Kris Steele, chair of the House Health
and Human Resources Committee, for his leadership in crafting the
“Representative Steele took the lead in proposing and hammering
out details on major health care reforms that will help Oklahomans
for years to come, including the Rx for Oklahoma program, health
savings accounts and the Long-term Care Security Act,” said
Hiett. “And Representative Doug Cox, a doctor, introduced
an important plan that will assist rural communities.”
Morgan commended the work of freshman Senators Tom Adelson and
Susan Paddack for their willingness to push through legislation
that will improve the health of Oklahomans.
“Senators Paddack and Adelson understand that creating a
healthier Oklahoma will help make a better tomorrow for our children,”
Provisions of the agreement include:
* Health Savings Account Act
The bipartisan agreement also encompasses the Health Savings Account
Act, a measure to allow individuals (or employers on behalf of their
employees) who purchase a high deductible insurance policy to deposit
and expend cash free from Oklahoma income tax for qualified medical
expenses. The amount that may be contributed and spent is the lower
of 100 percent of the deductible (which must be at least $1,000
for individuals and $2,000 for families) or $2,600 for an individual
or $5,150 for a family.
* More Physician Assistants in Rural Areas
The agreement spells out a measure that provides more clinicians
for rural communities. Rural areas of Oklahoma face a continuing
health care personnel shortage – with fewer doctors and other
clinicians available each year. The new measure requires the Physician
Manpower Training Commission to expand the benefits for its Rural
Medical Education Loan and Scholarship program to students preparing
to become Physician Assistants. Right now, the program only applies
to students preparing to become physicians. The loan program provides
qualified individuals with demonstrated financial need who commit
to practice their profession in a rural town one year’s scholarship
(up to $15,000) for each year they practice in the rural area. They
must practice for at least two years.
* Long-Term Care Security Act
Finally, the slate of bipartisan measures includes the Long-term
Care Security Act, a new law that would require criminal background
checks for all employees of long-term care facilities in Oklahoma.
The measure also mandates that the state Department of Corrections
must notify any long-term care facility in the state, in addition
to local law enforcement officials, if any registered sex offenders
are living in that facility.
Tempore's Office- (405) 521-5605