OMEPA has worked to pass the Patient's Right of Choice Act over the past couple of years

WATERLOO, Iowa—Over the past few legislative sessions, the Oklahoma Medical Equipment Providers Association (OMEPA) has navigated a legislative rollercoaster. Their commitment to building relationships and advocating for patients has led to significant wins. 

Over the past couple of years, the team worked to pass HB 1712, also known as the Patient’s Right of Choice Act. OMEPA President Larry Dalton of Advanced Care Medical Equipment and OMEPA Vice President Victor Clay of Complete Care Medical tell the story of HB 1712, which will allow DMEPOS suppliers to adequately serve patients that have access to care issues in rural markets. 

Simply stated, if a patient does not have an “in-network” DMEPOS supplier in their area, they will be allowed to use an out-of-network supplier and still receive in-network benefits, allowing DMEPOS suppliers to adequately serve patients that have access to care issues in the rural markets. 

The group worked to pass this bill in 2023, but at the end of the session, their bill and 60+ other bills were scrapped. In the off-season, the group worked with lobbyist Julia Jernigan Smith of Creative Capitol Strategies. 

“Julia connected OMEPA with key players who were necessary for the success of the bill, including Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the policy department and the Governor’s office," Clay said. "All had no issues with the bill.” 

After support was made with the Insurance Commission and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the group started working on building upon the relationships they had made over the years with key legislators. In discussion with legislators, the group focused on the impact and lack of access the “in-network” contracts were having on Oklahoma beneficiaries. Their champions helped identify key legislators that OMEPA needed to build relationships with to help move the legislation (HB 1712) forward. They worked with OMEPA providers to have specific stories or examples of harm that was happening in these legislators’ home districts. Through this effort, OMEPA built trust and rapport with their legislators. It wasn’t just about them; it was also about the Oklahoma patients they currently serve. The old political adage is in play with building a strong relationship with legislative officials, “All politics is local.” 

In April, HB 1712 seemed well on its way to passage. It received unanimous support in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and only three nays in the Oklahoma Senate, but the bill was vetoed by Gov. Kevin Stitt. OMEPA’s Board and key providers worked tirelessly with its champions in the legislature to allow for a “veto override vote” on the last day prior to sine die (end of the legislative session). They extended their appreciation to House Speaker Charles McCaul and Senator Greg McCortney. 

This is the third bill OMEPA members have worked on and have been successful in passing since becoming a state association. 

Larry Dalton said, “We’re three for three!” when speaking about the three significant DMEPOS bills that have now been passed since OMEPA’s inception: 

  • 2019 - HB 1407 Sales Tax – exempts durable medical equipment from state sales tax in Oklahoma 
  • 2022 - HB 2649 - Oklahoma Durable Medical Equipment Licensing Act 
  • 2023-2024 - HB 1712 Patient’s Right of Choice – allows to adequately serve patients that have access to care issues in the rural markets. 
How Do They Do It? 

“OMEPA owes much of their success to the strong relationships built with supportive state legislators over the years," said John Gallagher of VGM. "The OMEPA group reports receiving a standing ovation this year in passing HB 1712 from Senate legislators while they sat in the gallery right after the bill passed the Senate. With the passage of this bill, OMEPA has provided a great roadmap for other state associations to follow and pass in their own state legislatures. It’s great to see the progress your association has made! Passing three bills is indeed an impressive feat.” 

Gallagher continues, “These legislative achievements demonstrate effective teamwork and commitment to improving the lives of Oklahomans. It’s essential to continue advocating for positive change and addressing critical issues.” 

Relationship Building 

Since the onset of OMEPA, President Larry Dalton has stressed the importance of building relationships and telling stories to the Oklahoma state legislators. OMEPA would like to thank these Oklahoma state legislators for their efforts with HB 1712, including Representative TJ Marti and Senator Jessica Garvin who authored the bills, and Rep. Kevin Hilbert, Speaker Charles McCall, Senator Greg McCortney and Senator Chuck Hall, who were all very helpful in getting the bill passed.