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Adviser suggests extending Insure Oklahoma as state's health plan

Michael Deily, senior adviser for Leavitt Partners, told the Oklahoma Health Care Authority that the focus should be on finding a way to extend Insure Oklahoma next year and then possibly expand it by 2015.
by Andrew Knittle Modified: May 9, 2013 at 7:59 pm •  Published: May 10, 2013
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/articleid/3808141/1/pictures/2049228">Photo - George Miller, board member, looks at the study by Leavitt Partners while Michael Deily gives his presentation. At their board meeting Thursday afternoon, May 9, 2013, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority  discussed the preliminary findings of the Leavitt Partners' study of how Oklahoma can provide health insurance to those who currently can't afford it.   Photo  by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman. <strong>Jim Beckel - THE OKLAHOMAN</strong>
George Miller, board member, looks at the study by Leavitt Partners while Michael Deily gives his presentation. At their board meeting Thursday afternoon, May 9, 2013, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority discussed the preliminary findings of the Leavitt Partners' study of how Oklahoma can provide health insurance to those who currently can't afford it. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman. Jim Beckel - THE OKLAHOMAN

About 30,000 people are enrolled in Insure Oklahoma, which matches employer and employee contributions with about $50 million in state tobacco tax dollars and $70 million in federal funds.

More than half of Insure Oklahoma participants would be covered by a health care exchange under the Affordable Care Act. Gov. Mary Fallin has said she intends to develop a program to cover the rest, as well as about 200,000 uninsured Oklahomans who do not currently qualify for Medicaid.

Extension possible

Nico Gomez, the authority's chief executive officer, said he believes the state can renegotiate the extension of Insure Oklahoma through 2014 by allowing for enrollment beyond the 35,000-person cap currently in place, opening up the program to individuals beyond those working at participating small businesses, and reducing co-payments to within federal guidelines.

To expand it would require legislative support and untold amounts of dollars. Funding was not discussed in Deily's presentation, but Fallin last year rejected about $3.6 billion in expanded Medicaid dollars over the course of seven years.

Like a plan recently adopted in Arkansas, expanding Insure Oklahoma would require additional federal funding, but instead of a federal entitlement program, it would be to support a locally built program, he said.

“The thing I take away from it is we have a state innovative program called Insure Oklahoma that we've had since 2004 and we'd like to figure out a way to keep that operation because it's doing exactly what the Affordable Care Act is attempting to do but in a more responsible way,” Gomez said. “My takeaway from the meeting is we have the infrastructure here … now we need flexibility, and that's something we'll have to work toward.”

Deily said a finalized report, including a cost analysis, is expected in June.

by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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