Health care exchange in Oklahoma remains a wait and see

Oklahomans will have to wait and see if the state sets up its own federally mandated health care exchange that was mandated by President Barack Obama's health care law.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND Published: July 6, 2012

Oklahoma GOP leadership has pledged to continue the battle over the health care law that was signed into law by President Barack Obama more than two years ago and upheld by the Supreme Court.

The battle may have ended in the courts, but it will continue in the ballot booths this fall, Oklahoma politicians say.

But at least one mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has a looming deadline, pushing Democrats, as well as groups such as the State Chamber and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, to call for action.

By the end of 2012, states must demonstrate their capacity to implement a health care exchange where businesses and individuals can compare and purchase insurance.

“We certainly have our work cut out for us because we have failed to act on many occasions,” said Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage, D-Claremore. “I just regret that we've wasted almost two years now when we could be up and ready and be a model for the nation.”

State Sen. Gary Stanislawski, R-Tulsa, said there is still plenty of time before Oklahoma must begin implementing the mandate.

“We can wait until the presidential election is over,” said Stanislawski, who was the co-chairman of a joint House and Senate task force that examined the impact of the law on the state.

He said that Oklahoma already has the framework for an exchange set up — Insure Oklahoma — a state-run website that helps low income employees and employers find and pay for health insurance.

The cost and effort behind expanding Insure Oklahoma to meet the yet-to-be defined standards of the health care act would be minimal, Stanislawski said.

Outgoing Rep. Danny Morgan, D-Prague, said he agreed with the task force's work and conclusion but is nervous about the wait and see game being played by the GOP.

“What I would rather us do is put it into effect with an effective date a couple years down the road,” Morgan said.

“We can always go back and repeal it very easily, but let's do the heavy lifting and the hard work now instead of trying to do it at the 12th hour, just before midnight struck.”

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