Health-care costs a concern: Oklahoma doctors, insurance companies wonder how reform will be paid for. [Tulsa World, Okla.]

Mar. 24--While Oklahoma doctors, hospitals and insurers laud some provisions of the sweeping health-care overhaul signed into law Tuesday, all wonder why it doesn't address rising health-care costs.

"One thing this bill doesn't address is the cost issue," said Brian T. Forbes, vice president of sales and service for Aetna in Oklahoma. "Pre-existing conditions? We have no problem with that. Extending coverage to age 26? We have no problem with that. How we're going to pay for it isn't addressed."

The Oklahoma Hospital Association has long favored legislation based on the principle of "coverage for all paid for by all," said association President Craig W. Jones in a written statement.

"But the health care savings designed in this legislation to pay for expanded coverage remains a concern," he wrote. The association represents more than 130 hospitals and health-care entities in Oklahoma.

"While the projection that another 32 million people will be covered by health insurance, we have concerns about just how that's going to be paid for," said Dr. George Caldwell, a Tulsa physician and vice president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association.

"How is this going to affect people who have insurance plans or small businesses? How is this going to affect our debt?" he asked.

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland said not only does the bill fail to include cost-cutting measures, it could end up actually raising the cost of premiums.

"In the absence of really addressing underlying costs, the concern is it will balloon to a much larger extent," she said.

As secretary-treasurer of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Holland also noted inadequate penalties for enforcing the requirement to obtain health insurance.

"Some younger folks will just pay the penalty," she said, which could work against the bill's aim of insuring more people and spreading risk across a larger pool.

Not long after Obama signed the law Tuesday, the Senate began preparing to modify it through a special budget reconciliation process to incorporate changes agreed upon previously by both chambers.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Oklahoma said it would work with Congress and the administration to help ensure new regulations are implemented smoothly.

"We will continue to review the bill's requirements on our business and their respective time frames to ensure full compliance," the company said in a written release.

Blue Cross also said it would keep its members apprised of any changes that may result from the new law.

Are you offering the right health coverage to your senior clients?

Kim Archer 581-8315

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