OKLAHOMA CITY – The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it’s typically referred, was signed into law in 2010.
Since then, Oklahomans have become increasingly frustrated with the lack of options. Now, that is changing, creating more competition for Oklahoma consumers.
“The biggest complaint has definitely been about price and then the second complaint has been about choice. We’ve only had one company in the past two years, so you combine those elements,” Buddy Combs, deputy insurance commissioner at the Oklahoma Insurance Department, said.
Insurance providers for Obamacare have dwindled the past four years.
In 2014, there were five providers on the Oklahoma exchange. In 2015, that went down to four. Then, in 2016, there were two. In 2017, Blue Cross Blue Shield was the only insurance provider for Obamacare, which extends to this year.
But, Minnesota nonprofit Medica is changing that, offering insurance starting in the 2019 enrollment period.
“Oklahoma is a large market, and again, it’s been in our sights for a long time and we think in the long term it is a state and market overall that we hope to do business for a long period of time,” Vice President of Individual and Family Business Geoff Bartsh said.
There hasn’t been a lot of competition for insurance providers as they increasingly pull out.
In fact, Medica is the only provider for Obamacare in Nebraska and Iowa, which they hope will change in the future.
“Even in those states, we think choice is good for consumers. It gives more options in terms of what they can purchase. To be honest, it keeps us in the business, honest and keeping our best foot forward in terms of the products we want to bring forward into market,” Bartsh said.
It will be available in all 77 counties with 140,000 people in Oklahoma’s exchange in 2018. A lot of consumers are hoping to lower their rate and increase their coverage.
“So at least to have one more carrier from the choice aspect and from the price aspect to maybe get a little more competition and provide some of those elements you need for a healthy environment we think will be good for consumers,” Combs said.
The rates for both Medica and Blue Cross Blue Shield will be available to the public starting August 1.