Nelson, lawmakers examine individual health insurance tax relief

From Legislative Staff Release

Phillip Smith calls himself a concerned citizen representing Oklahomans who want a free market health care system. He spoke at an interim study recently about why he believes they must help make the system more consumer-driven.

Smith said the health care system has been a third party payer system, with the third party being either the government or private insurance. Giving individuals the same tax breaks as companies for purchasing health insurance will begin a journey towards a system with more consumer choice and lower costs, he said.

State Rep. Jason Nelson, an Oklahoma City Republican who requested the study, said he favors individual health insurance tax relief but wanted to study how feasible implementing it would be.

“The federal government is taking the wrong approach to health care. By getting the government more involved, they believe they will find lower costs and a better system,” Nelson said. “Phillip Smith believes just the opposite and I agree. What we need is a more free market system. Giving individuals tax relief on health insurance purchases will lower the cost they pay for insurance and give them a wider range or options rather than just insurance through their employer or through a government entity.”

Nelson said he plans to introduce legislation to create tax credits for individuals to give them greater power and options in purchasing health insurance. He said he will draw on today’s presentations to help shape the legislation.

When Nelson filed a similar measure in the 2009 session, it was estimated the legislation would benefit up to 1.18 million Oklahoma families and individuals who would have been allowed to deduct about $2.23 billion in health insurance premiums, saving an estimated $85.9 million in taxes and increasing their ability to buy better coverage.

Tom Daxon, a certified public accountant and the author of an Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs study on health care reform, urged lawmakers to support Nelson’s plan. He said that regardless of the outcome of the national debate, employers are going to be under increased pressure that will likely result in higher deductibles and lower quality of health coverage. Giving individuals more power to buy their insurance outside of what their employer offers is the right direction, he said.

Smith said he looks forward to the Legislature taking an active role on the path to a free market health care system.

“Representative Nelson’s tax credit plan will start the process of building a true consumer-driven health care system,” Smith said.