Now that the House and the Senate have adjourned “sine die”, the focus turns to the Governor’s office. He has 15 days including Saturdays and Sundays to sign the bills passed by the legislature in order for them to become law. That means that any bill not signed after this Saturday is automatically vetoed.
This procedure is different than what happens during session. While the Legislature is in session, the Governor has five days in which to veto the bill. If he doesn’t veto it in five days then it automatically becomes law. He can also sign the bill into law during those five days.
The Governor signed two bills into law yesterday that will help improve the health care in Oklahoma. There is also a bill that I amended that will also help hospitals and in rural Oklahoma.
One of the bills signed into law on Monday was HB (House Bill) 1884 by Speaker Lance Cargill. This bill creates the Healthcare Transparency Pricing Task Force. This task force will be tasked with several responsibilities.
The goal of this task force is to make it simpler for patients to know and understand hospital and procedure costs before entering a hospital. The task force will study transparency measures in other states and begin to implement the best procedures in this state. It will also review the average charge of medical procedures from a variety of medical providers. Finally it will implement methods for patients to determine out of pocket expenses beforehand.
Another bill that was signed into law on Monday was HB 1928. This bill will allow state employees that have Health Choice to begin to utilize Health Savings Accounts. (HSA) These medical savings accounts can be used to effectively offset the high cost of health care.
This act will enable a person to get minimal health care coverage while putting money normally spent on health care into a HSA. This money is retained in a savings account that grows yearly. The money in this account can then be used to offset deductibles and other out of pocket expenses for health care. The great feature about this account is that you decide what medical expenses the money is spent on, not an insurance company.
Another bill awaiting the Governor’s signature concerning health care is a bill that will affect rural health care. HB 1375 by Rep Schwartz was amended by myself in conference committee to include the Small Hospital Self Help Act by Senator Laughlin. The Senator has been working on this piece of legislation for the past several years. This year we were able to get it through both the House and Senate to the Governor’s desk.
This bill will allow the money raised from local taxes for a hospital district to be eligible for a federal match. This match varies year to year, but is between a two and three to one match. This money then comes back to the hospital district to be spent on expenses. This bill will be a great help to our small rural hospitals.