“Pruitt's lawsuit raises different constitutional questions than previous legal challenges,” Fallin said. “And both he and I remain optimistic that Oklahoma's challenge can succeed.”
Pruitt filed his lawsuit in January 2011, shortly after taking office, in federal court in Muskogee.
It seeks to have parts of the health care law ruled unconstitutional to prevent the entire law from being enforced. A stay on the lawsuit was issued by the judge until the U.S. Supreme Court decided the other lawsuit filed by Florida and 25 other states.
Pruitt said his office is reviewing several aspects of the health care law and tax, including a new rule by the Internal Revenue Service. The rule contradicts a provision in the health care law that keeps businesses from being taxed for lack of employee insurance coverage in states such as Oklahoma, where a state-run health insurance exchange has not been created.
“The Governor's decision secures our ability to continue the state's lawsuit, challenging implementation of the health care law and fighting this administration's attempt to overstep the boundaries of the law,” Pruitt said in a statement.
Health care exchange
Fallin in 2010 accepted a $54 million federal grant to set up the health care exchange, but she later rejected it at the urging of Republican leadership in the Legislature.
House Minority Leader Scott Inman said by refusing to develop a health insurance exchange, the governor has gone against one of her campaign promises — to do everything in her power to fight federal government interference in the state.
“Instead of allowing Oklahomans to establish and create an Oklahoma health care exchange, she and Republican leaders have simply extended the invitation to the Obama administration to come to our state and do it for us,” Inman said.
Burrage said he also was disappointed that the program would now be run by the federal government instead of by Oklahomans for Oklahomans.
Oklahoma already has a program in place — Insure Oklahoma — that many thought could have served as a blueprint for a marketplace for health insurance.
Dan Ramsey, chief executive officer of Independent Insurance Agents of Oklahoma, said the roughly 3,000 members he represents unanimously oppose a health care exchange of any kind.
“We've had an exchange for health insurance for over 100 years, they're called insurance agents,” Ramsey said. “But if we're going to be regulated by someone, it would be more comfortable in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma Insurance Department would be more easy for us to deal with. A customer toll-free number in Washington, D.C., is probably the least friendly option.”
Ramsey said he understands why Fallin made the decision she did, though.
Fallin said there were too many unanswered questions to have the state move forward with an exchange or the Medicaid expansion.