Recent federal health care legislation threatens to squash the rights of Oklahomans, drive up the cost of health care, and limit already-weak access to health care providers in the state. It's clear the federal law will exacerbate current health care problems " at a high price " without providing significant benefits.
The federal health insurance mandate is meant to bring insurance premiums down by expanding the risk pool. In theory, the idea sounds good. However, a 2009 study conducted by the Congressional Budget Office showed that possible new taxes and regulations tied to health care legislation could increase premiums for individually purchased plans by 10 to 13 percent " an unaffordable burden for Oklahoma families already struggling to get by.
The CBO also estimated that between 8 million and 9 million people could lose their current employer-sponsored health insurance. Investor's Business Daily recently reported that internal administration documents revealed that up to 51 percent of employers may have to change their current health care coverage by 2013 because of the federal plan. The report concluded that small businesses, which create many new jobs in Oklahoma, could be hardest hit.
Even as Oklahoma citizens lose their current coverage, "Obamacare" is also expected to exacerbate our state's doctor shortage. Currently, Oklahoma has a shortage of rural doctors in 59 of the state's 77 counties. That situation won't improve under the new system of price controls and dramatic cost-shifting that ultimately leaves providers unable to make a living.
Furthermore, many Oklahomans and their employers will not be able to afford the mandated health insurance, and will choose to instead pay the financial penalty, which will actually cost less than Obamacare insurance policies. As a result, it is likely Obamacare will leave Oklahoma with just as many uninsured citizens, fewer doctors, reduced access to care and higher costs that strangle economic growth and discourage the creation of small businesses.
That is unacceptable. Oklahoma has been addressing many of the problems with the state's health care. We have passed lawsuit reform, considered allowing out-of-state insurers to provide health care insurance in the state, and are developing incentive programs to pay the education costs of doctors who choose to operate in rural areas.
There is a conservative, commonsense approach to health care. But the federal health care law interferes with those efforts and instead adds a burden in the form of an unconstitutional mandate on individuals.
The constitutional amendment passed by the Oklahoma Legislature will give Oklahomans the opportunity to create a state protection against the federal health care plan. This is a protection that can be defended in court and a method that has led to successful challenges to the federal government's overreach in the past. I expect it will pass by a landslide on Nov. 2.
Rep. Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, represents District 80 in the state House of Representatives.