Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin's emails detail health care exchange decisions

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin's office released 51,029 pages of emails Friday.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove and Phillip O'Connor Modified: March 30, 2013 at 8:38 pm •  Published: March 29, 2013

Sen. David Holt, R-Oklahoma City, responded to the letter with a March 22, 2011, email to Fallin's policy director, Katie Altshuler. Holt said he was hung up on the cost.

“$50 million is a lot of money for something that I don't even think is a core government function, and though I may have felt different 10 years ago, I no longer view federal money sent to states as ‘free money,'” Holt wrote.

“I don't have any strong dispute with the policy argument presented in this letter, but the cost is really a problem for me. Any argument you have to address that concern is welcome.”

A week later, Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman announced the bill would not be heard.

Friday, Bingman said he could have done a better job of informing Fallin of his intentions to not support the legislation.

“But at the end of the day, I think we all realized we made the right decision,” he said.

Bingman said the decision to not support the exchange was made by the Republican caucus in the Senate and not him alone.

Disappointment

Bingman's Republican counterpart in the House said he, too, was blindsided by Bingman's announcement and by what he described as Fallin's “flip-flop.”

Former Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, said until Bingman's news conference, all three supported the exchange.

“I don't know if it's normal, but it seems very odd to me given the discussions that we had up until that point,” Steele said. “We had talked about the issue (and) she stated privately she was supportive of the legislation we moved through the House.”

A spokesman for Fallin could not be reached for comment.

Rep. Scott Inman, D-Del City, current House minority leader, said he, too, doesn't understand why Fallin so quickly changed her mind.

“I'm disappointed that the governor wouldn't exert more leadership,” Inman said. “If she really felt it was the right thing to do — which she must have at some point because that's what she said she wanted to do — then I would have hoped she would have the leadership to stand up and implement it.”

Fallin would continue for more than a year to support some form of a health insurance exchange, even as lawmakers threw up more and more objections.

In November 2012, Fallin's spokesman sent an email to Northrup asking whether Fallin could create an exchange on her own without the Legislature.

“My understanding is the simple answer is yes she can, and no she does not,” Weintz wrote. “Is that correct and is that how we want to say it?”

Northrup responded: “OMG you are killing me. ... That is correct but I'm pretty sure we don't want to say it that way.”

Not long after, Fallin announced Oklahoma would no longer pursue an exchange.

Contributing:

Joseph Stipek, Staff Writer

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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by Phillip O'Connor
Enterprise Editor
O'Connor joined the Oklahoman staff in June, 2012 after working at The Kansas City Star and St. Louis Post-Dispatch for a combined 28 years. O'Connor, an Oklahoma City resident, is a graduate of Kansas State University. He has written frequently...
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