U.S. Markets closed

Study: Health law will raise claim costs in Okla.

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A study by the Society of Actuaries estimates that the new federal health care law will raise medical claims costs in Oklahoma by 29.3 percent, an increase that critics of the measure said comes as no surprise.

"From day one, I was saying it could not be a savings in health care," said Sen. Bill Brown, R-Broken Arrow, a longtime critic of the Affordable Care Act championed by President Barack Obama.

Rep. Mike Ritze, one of two physicians in the Oklahoma Legislature, said he never doubted that medical costs would go up under the federal legislation.

"My bigger concern is that access will go down," Ritze said.

Medical claims costs are the main driver of health insurance premiums. The study estimates that the law will raise claims costs nationally by an average of 32 percent per person in the individual health insurance market by 2017. That's partly due to sicker people joining the pool.

The study assumes that every state will expand its Medicaid program. In November, Gov. Mary Fallin rejected an opportunity to expand the state's Medicaid program to provide services to 200,000 uninsured, low-income Oklahomans. Fallin called the plan unaffordable.

The report did not make estimates for employer plans, the mainstay for workers and their families. The primary impact of the law is on people who don't have insurance through their jobs.

The Obama administration says the study ignores subsidies to help with premiums. But Brown said he is concerned about where the funding will come from with the national debt approaching $17 trillion.

"Just where are we going to get the money?" Brown said. "What we're going to see is employers dropping their health insurance. It's a mess. It's a total, total mess."

Ritze is the author of legislation that seeks to nullify the health care law in the state.

"I've been yelling like Paul Revere for three years around this place," Ritze said. "You're going to see an increase in taxes. You're going to see an increase in premiums. You're going to see costs go up. And access to care is going to be a big problem. People aren't going to be able to see doctors."