Calling it a great win for the people of Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday announced the state successfully has negotiated a one-year extension for a modified version of its Insure Oklahoma program.
The program provides subsidized health insurance for about 30,000 low-income Oklahomans.
“This is a great victory, a great win for the people of Oklahoma,” Fallin said.
Fallin's enthusiasm was echoed by the state's small business leaders.
“This is a big relief for the small-business owners and employees who use Insure Oklahoma,” said Jerrod Shouse, Oklahoma state director of the National Federation of Independent Business. “Our members tell us that access to affordable health insurance is their No. 1 priority, and this extension gives small business owners and their employees some extra breathing room.
“Insure Oklahoma has made a big difference in the lives of thousands of families, and it's good to know they won't lose coverage on Jan. 1.”
Federal officials initially refused to extend the program, which was set to expire at the end of this year, but now have agreed to extend a modified version of it through the end of 2014.
The extension is just for one year, but Fallin said she hopes federal officials eventually will agree to extend the program beyond the end of 2014 and even consider using it as a model for other states.
The portion of the Insure Oklahoma program that relates to health insurance offered through small business employers will remain unchanged through 2014, Fallin said. That portion of the program serves about 4,600 small businesses and their 16,000 employees.
However, there will be some significant changes in the part of the Insure Oklahoma program that involves health insurance sold directly to individuals, which currently insures about 13,000 Oklahomans.
The current individual plan is available to people who earn up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, but beginning Jan. 1 the program will only be available to workers who make up to 100 percent of the federal poverty level. The federal poverty level is $23,550 a year for a family of four.
Fallin said the change in the income threshold is expected to result in about 8,000 Oklahomans who make between 100 percent and 200 percent of the poverty level becoming ineligible for Insure Oklahoma participation.
However, those individuals will not be left without affordable insurance options, the governor said. They will be eligible for the federal Health Insurance Marketplace and related advance premium tax credits, which will be offered to individuals and families earning up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level.