Tulsa World: Oklahoma Physicians Advocate for Improved Health Care Access and Incentives for Medical Field Growth

By Melissa Jacques

Tulsa World Capitol Bureau Staff Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY — Physicians from around Oklahoma gathered Tuesday in the Capitol rotunda to advocate for better access to care and incentives to grow the medical field in the state.

Dr. Ondria C. Gleason, who works with OU Health Physicians in Tulsa, came to the Capitol because of her concerns about requirements for insurance authorization and lack of medical professionals in Oklahoma.

“One of the big concerns physicians and patients have is the need for prior authorization for many procedures,” said Gleason. She explained that authorization can take weeks to get, deferring care for patients and requiring extra effort from physicians, who have to be on the phone with insurance companies to access this authorization for their patients. Without prior authorization, the insurance company will not pay for the procedure.

Gleason hopes the Legislature will consider limiting “the ability of insurance companies to require prior authorizations for so many treatments, tests and medications.”

Another concern in the Oklahoma medical field is lack of access to health care in rural communities.

In a press release, Dr. Diane Heaton, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said: “These physicians come from all walks of life and span specialties; however, we are all connected by the common goal of ensuring our patients receive the best care possible. That’s why we are meeting with our legislators to discuss vital issues such as insurance-related care delays and ways we can grow access to care in rural areas.”

According to data from the Health Resources and Services Administration, all but two counties in Oklahoma have health professional shortage areas. Both counties without shortages, McClain County and Cleveland County, are classified as being within metro areas.

Gleason said, “There’s a huge problem with lack of medical care in rural areas, and there could be things that the Legislature could do to help with that. There’s a shortage of physicians, and there are programs that are out there that are encouraging young people from rural areas to go into medicine. We have one of those at The University of Oklahoma School of Community Medicine in Tulsa, which is called TRUE.

“So funding those kinds of things is important,” said Gleason.