Steele expresses confidence state-based plan will emerge from exchange debate

Oklahoma Speaker of the House Kris Steele today (Thursday, March 31) expressed some surprise at the decision of Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman not to hear House Bill 2130, a measure that would create an Oklahoma health care exchange. However, Steele expressed confidence that the House and Senate will work together to avoid letting the state invite federal health care control in the state.

In his customary Thursday meeting with state Capitol reporters, Steele said, “I believe wholeheartedly the purpose of H.B. 2130 was to get ahead of the curve on ObamaCare, in order to protect free market principles, competition and individual responsibility.

“This issue is important. The Pro Tem, the governor and I all agree on opposition to ObamaCare. I know we are on the path to set Oklahoma on the path to develop a plan to meet our citizens’ needs. The history of this is that in 2009 [the state] established a steering committee to create an exchange, and the principles by which it will be governed.”

After a reporter described Senator Bingman’s concern that the legislation, which cleared the House on March 17, would invite federal control, Steele said, “I would respectfully disagree. The purpose of H.B. 2130 is to protect against the imposition of ObamaCare. If we don’t do anything, the federal government will come in and establish its own plan.”

He added, “There are some concerns. I respect those concerns. I feel confident and have conversed enough with him to know we will work together. My plan is to visit with Senator Bingman and see what his concerns are.

“I believe the goal is to identify solutions. I reiterate my opposition to ObamaCare. Ultimately, the concept of an Information Technology infrastructure to help consumers know their health care options will come about.”

Steele, a Shawnee Republican, sketched development of the exchange concept from his perspective: “We brought in leading conservatives like Grace-Marie Turner and the people from the Heritage Foundation. The idea of the compact is that people should know their benefits, be able to access information, empowering individuals to take control of their own health. This all began before passage of the federal law, pre-federal health care changes.”

He continued, “The exchange is a tool that has promise, if established the right way and implemented the right way. Since 2009, some exchanges have been established. Utah I believe did it right. We mimicked their language. Massachusetts did not do it the right way.

“I am more interested in meeting the needs of our citizens than in the label. It doesn’t matter to me what we call it. I do know that if we sit back and do nothing that something will be imposed on us. I don’t think this is a matter where one size fits all, and that’s why a state-guided approach is so important.”