Insure Oklahoma eyed for exchange by some lawmakers

The program is the closest thing Oklahoma has to a health care exchange that is mandated under the federal health care law.
BY MEGAN ROLLAND mrolland@opubco.com Published: July 6, 2012
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If Oklahoma decides or is forced to implement an online marketplace for businesses and individuals to shop for health insurance, a likely or at least logical landing place for the program could be Insure Oklahoma.

Insure Oklahoma was created in 2004 when voters approved an increased tax on tobacco, thus funding a subsidy for the health insurance of low- to moderate-income employees at small Oklahoma Businesses.

Today, Insure Oklahoma — a part of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority — helps cover more than 30,000 individuals in 4,900 small businesses throughout the state using both state and federal funding.

“I would emphasize that there is no current or impending change to Insure Oklahoma,” Nico Gomez, the deputy chief executive officer of the Health Care Authority, said in a statement Friday.

“We recognize it could be impacted by the recent changes in federal law. We are proceeding as usual, awaiting guidance from state leadership and the federal government, to see what, if any, changes are necessary.”

About the agency

But undoubtedly lawmakers who will eventually craft legislation to establish the exchange — granted the federal health care law isn't repealed — have targeted Insure Oklahoma.

Currently, the agency uses a combination of state and federal funding to pay up to 60 percent of the cost of insuring Oklahoma employees who make less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level and work for companies with fewer than 99 employees, said Matt Lucas, director of Insure Oklahoma.

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