OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill by Senator Jay Paul Gumm would give the Oklahoma Legislature another chance to protect women left out of a state law governing small group health insurance policies.
Under current Oklahoma law, every health insurance policy – no matter how small the group – must cover prostate examinations for men. There is, however, no requirement that obstetrical/gynecological examinations for women be covered by health insurance group policies with 50 or fewer members.
Gumm, a Democrat from Durant, has – for the second year – introduced legislation to strike that inequity from the law. Senate Bill 11 would, if passed, ensure Oklahoma’s women covered by small group health insurance policies are treated fairly under state law.
“A conservative businessman in my district – a business owner who would be affected by this change – brought this to my attention,” said Gumm. “He and I share the unshakable belief that this statute is fundamentally unfair to Oklahoma’s women.”
That unfairness could lead to unnecessary suffering and death. The kind of early detection state law mandates for men – but not women – is considered the key to beating cancer, he said.
“If the bill passes and all policies are required to cover these examinations for women, we give them a chance detect life-threatening cancer and begin early treatment to defeat the disease,” Gumm said.
"Ultimately, I believe this change would reduce medical costs to women and their insurers and – more importantly – save lives, which is good news for everyone.”
Conversely, Gumm said, failure to pass the measure would keep Oklahoma’s women and their families at risk unnecessarily. “Any cancer that strikes a woman has more victims than just her,” he said.
"Children could face a future without a mother, and a father may have to raise his children alone. A woman fighting cancer is someone’s daughter. She is a sister, a wife, a mother and a friend. We certainly owe Oklahoma’s families better than what current law provides.”
In 2006, Gumm introduced an identical bill. After passing the Senate on a bipartisan vote, the measure died in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives without so much as a hearing in committee.
The lawmaker said he simply fails to understand why anyone – regardless of party affiliation – would not enthusiastically support a bill to give a majority of the population the same protection men have. Census figures indicate women comprise 50.6 percent of Oklahoma’s population.
“Ensuring state law is fair to a majority of our population should not be a partisan issue – and it certainly wasn’t a partisan issue in the Senate,” said Gumm. “We have a responsibility to do the right thing, and passage of this legislation is the right thing.”