State Rep. Bill Nations, a former Norman mayor and longtime practicing dentist here, is one of the few health care professionals serving in the Oklahoma legislature. He recently shared with us that he wanted his legislative legacy to be health care and civic education.

Rep. Nations was at the forefront of the Democrats' legislative health care plan proposed Monday at the Oklahoma State Capitol. Their plan calls for drug reimportation and a permanent mechanism for obtaining federal matching Medicaid funding for hospitals.

He said 20 percent of all Oklahomans lack any kind of health insurance. The result is that the high number of uninsured drives up costs for everyone else.

Often, the first time a patient sees a doctor for a condition is in the emergency room of a public hospital. Sadly, it is usually for an illness that could have been treated in a simple manner months or weeks before.

Democrats also propose increased funding for senior nutrition and adult day care as well as expanding a program to help small businesses provide health insurance for their employers. Currently, businesses with 25 or fewer workers are eligible for a subsidized health care program. Democrats want to include companies with 50 or fewer workers.

Lawmakers also want to be able to assess a one percent gross fee on hospital bills. Most major hospitals, the state chamber and the Oklahoma Medical Association last session wanted the tax so as to help obtain an extra $200 million in matching federal Medicaid funds.

This would free up money to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates. Prodded by specialty hospitals which serve fewer Medicaid patients, House Republicans blocked the tax last year and voted to kick in $63 million in one-time money.

Lawmakers will face an uphill battle on health care issues this session. Competition for any new money is coming fast from education, roads and bridges and corrections.

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