Okla. rejects state-run health insurance exchange

Associated Press Modified: November 19, 2012 at 1:46 pm •  Published: November 19, 2012
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"It does not benefit Oklahoma taxpayers to actively support and fund a new government program that will ultimately be under the control of the federal government, that is opposed by a clear majority of Oklahomans, and that will further the implementation of a law that threatens to erode both the quality of American health care and the fiscal stability of the nation," Fallin said.

The issue of complying with provisions of the federal health care law has been a politically difficult one for Fallin. Last year, the governor rejected $54 million in federal funding to help set up a state-run exchange after bitter opposition from grass-roots activists and conservative members of the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The governor on Monday also rejected the Medicaid expansion, saying Oklahoma couldn't afford the costs.

"The proposed Medicaid expansion offers no meaningful reform to a massive entitlement program already contributing to the out-of-control spending of the federal government," she said.

Nearly 20 percent of Oklahoma citizens are currently uninsured, and an expansion of Medicaid to 133 percent of the federal poverty level would make an additional 180,000 adults eligible for Medicaid, according to the Oklahoma Hospital Association, one of the groups that pushed Fallin to support the Medicaid expansion.

Mike Neal, the president and CEO of the Tulsa Metro Chamber, which had supported the Medicaid expansion, said the group plans to work with lawmakers and the governor to find alternatives to improve the health of Oklahomans.

"Ideally, the chamber would've liked to have seen Gov. Fallin recognize the possible benefits of expanded Medicaid funding," Neal said. "The health of our employees and workforce is integral to our success and therefore is a priority consideration when making decisions that impact our economy."

Although Fallin did not provide specifics of how Oklahoma plans to deal with the large number of Oklahomans without health insurance, she did cite the state's Insure Oklahoma program as an example of a "success story" for providing coverage to low-income workers. That program splits the cost of health insurance premiums between the state, employer and employee and currently provides coverage to about 30,000 Oklahomans.

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