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Oklahoma State Senate
Senator Charlie Laster
Democratic Floor Leader
Senate District 17
Pottawatomie, Oklahoma and Cleveland Counties

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For Immediate Release: February 22, 2008

Sen. Charlie Laster
Sen. Charlie Laster

Senate Republicans Turning the State Senate into the
Political Graveyard for Insurance Reform

Good Bills Dying as Republicans Lock Up to Protect Powerful Insurance Lobby

A disturbing trend of insurance reform bills dying at the hands of Republican senators locking up to protect powerful insurance companies won’t stop Senate Democrats from continuing to push to make healthcare more affordable for all Oklahomans.

“We knew when we introduced legislation aimed at giving power back to Oklahomans and away from insurance companies we were going to have an uphill battle,” Senate Democratic Floor Leader Charlie Laster said. “We have a few bills still alive aimed at making healthcare policies stronger and holding insurance companies responsible to Oklahoma policy holders and will use every legislative tool at our disposal to ensure they become law.”

Laster explained a bill he authored that would have reestablished the Board for Property and Casualty Insurance Rates died in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday when every Republican on the committee voted against the measure. The bill was aimed at curbing arbitrary insurance rate increases and practices.

Another bill by Senator John Sparks (D-Norman) died as Republican members of the Retirement and Insurance Committee all voted against his measure aimed at ensuring insurance companies pay for medical procedures that had been “pre-authorized.”

“The party line votes to kill important insurance reform measures in the state senate is a very sad story,” Sparks said. “It’s wrong and it also sends a clear message to Oklahomans – Republicans care more about defending powerful insurance companies than their own constituents who are desperate for affordable healthcare.”

In another Senate committee this week, a bill to establish a Patient’s Bill of Rights authored by Democratic Senator Jim Wilson squeaked out of committee as one lone Republican crossed party lines and voted with the Democrats. Every other Republican voted against the bill, and another Republican failed to show up to committee to vote on the measure—refusing to take a stand for better healthcare for all Oklahomans.

“It is sad the people of Oklahoma come behind wealthy corporate interests in the eyes of the Republicans of the State Senate,” Laster said. “It is time for insurance companies to stop making record breaking profits on the backs of some of the sickest and most vulnerable Oklahomans.”

Laster explained that Senate Democrats intend on pushing intensely for insurance reform so that Oklahomans can have greater access to affordable healthcare. He pointed to another bill still alive that would require insurance companies to pay for medical expenses for Oklahomans involved in clinical trials. The measure to which he is referring is known as “Steffanie’s Law” and is authored by Democratic Senator Andrew Rice.

“Senator Rice has worked tirelessly to get some good grassroots support for this bill and we intend to stand up for those people who understand the importance of this issue,” Laster said. “We have a moral obligation to be a voice to those Oklahomans who often times don’t get a seat at the table when it comes to reforming the insurance industry.

“Just because insurance companies spend thousands of dollars lobbying to keep their power doesn’t mean we are going to back down from this fight. It’s a fight worth having, and a fight that will make Oklahoma a healthier place to live, work and raise a family.”

For more information contact:
Senator Laster's Office: (405) 521-5539

Inon: Horizontal Blue Band

February Press Releases | Press Releases