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Enrollment deadline looms for buying health insurance

Enrollment in Oklahoma’s federally-run health insurance marketplace closes March 31. Uninsured Oklahomans must buy insurance this year or face penalties.
by Paula Burkes Published: March 24, 2014

Oklahomans who don’t have health insurance have one week from today to buy it — or face penalties on their 2014 tax returns.

Some residents who enrolled in coverage available on Oklahoma’s federally run health insurance marketplace are happy, while others say the insurance still is too expensive.

John Marshall, 63, of El Reno, said he enjoyed exchange benefits early this year, before his wife, 61, got a job. By law, the couple had to roll onto her employer’s group insurance.

“With a subsidy on the exchange, we were paying only $114 a month with a $1,500 deductible,” said Marshall, a retired news photographer and videographer who returned to his hometown in 2011 to care for his aging mother. He and his wife previously went six months uninsured because they couldn’t afford coverage, which cost $1,100 a month, or the same as Marshall’s monthly Social Security benefit, he said.

“It’s amazing how stressful it is going without health insurance, especially when you have a serious illness,” Marshall said. His wife is a survivor of uterine cancer; he has Type 2 diabetes.

Conversely, Ron Cole, 64, of Grove, after researching plans on the marketplace, decided he couldn’t afford insurance for himself and his wife, 29. Cole said they didn’t qualify for a subsidy and the lowest available plan, with a $6,000 annual deductible-per-person, would cost them $463 a month. That’s nearly half of his $1,144 monthly Social Security benefit, which he started drawing in October after losing his job as a cook two years before.

Cole’s 6-year-old and 9-year-old stepsons and 4-year-old daughter are insured through Medicaid.

The couple have gone without health insurance for a year, except for the discounted care Cole, a U.S. Army veteran, receives through the Veterans Administration clinic in Vinita. He said the VA doesn’t cover the one blood pressure medicine on which he experiences no side effects, while a medication to treat an ear infection took 10 days to arrive by standard mail.

“When I learned we didn’t qualify for a subsidy, I kept thinking ‘Somebody has made a mistake,’” Cole said.

Lisa Schwartz, a Tulsa single mother of 20-year-old Mac Schwartz, who suffers from a critical and chronic colorectal condition, fell on the opportunity to gain coverage through the marketplace.

Before the Affordable Care Act, her daughter was covered under the Oklahoma Temporary High Risk Pool (or Oklahoma Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan), which was created by the ACA and funded by the federal government to serve as a bridge until this year for the sick for whom insurance was previously inaccessible.

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by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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At a glance: Insurance enrollment


On 2014 tax returns: $95 per adult and $47.50 per child (up to $285 per family) or 1 percent of family income, whichever is greater.

In 2015: $325 per adult and $162.50 per child (up to $975 per family) or 2 percent of family income.

In 2016 and beyond: $695 per adult and $347.50 per child (up to $2,085 per family) or 2.5 percent of family income.

There’s no penalty for a single gap in coverage of fewer than three months.


•Those who oppose health services/benefits based on deeply held religious beliefs

•Undocumented workers


•Tribal members

•Those whose annual incomes fall below the threshold for filing tax returns ($10,000 in 2013; $20,000 for a family).

•Those for whom buying insurance would cost more than 8 percent of their income.


Residents between 100 percent of the federal poverty level ($11,490 for 2013, or $31,322 for a family of four) and 400 percent ($23,550, or $94,200 for a family of four) who buy health insurance through Oklahoma’s federally run exchange will be eligible for variable tax credits based on annual income and family size. A subsidy calculator is available at

How to enroll

•Go to www.

•Call (800) 318-2596 or (855) 889-4325 (teletypewriter for the hearing-impaired)

Independent insurance agents also can help consumers buy compliant health insurance on and off Oklahoma’s federally run health insurance marketplace.

To avoid a penalty on 2014 tax returns, residents must enroll in a health insurance plan by March 31.

Source: The Kaiser Family Foundation


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