Oklahoma has the second highest concentration of American Indians who have selected private health insurance plans through the federally run marketplace since it opened Oct. 1, according to data released Thursday.
In Oklahoma, at least 1,638 American Indian or Alaska Native residents selected private insurance plans through the marketplace from October to the end of March, representing 3.1 percent of the total number of Oklahomans who have signed up for coverage whose race or ethnicity was known.
Federal health officials in a conference call with reporters Thursday pointed out that the racial or ethnic data for 16,477 Oklahoma residents was unavailable, adding that race was an optional category in a person’s marketplace application.
In Oklahoma, an estimated 74,500 American Indian or Alaska Native adults younger than 65 are uninsured, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
That’s more than 30 percent of the 232,800 American Indian or Alaska Native adults younger than 65 living in Oklahoma, according to the foundation.
Robyn Sunday-Allen, the CEO of the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, said her organization and others must do a better job educating American Indians about the Affordable Care Act, especially explaining that the March 31 deadline to enroll in coverage did not apply to American Indians who are members of tribes.
“If you are listening to media outlets, we've all heard ‘March 31, March, 31, March 31,’ and Indian people heard the same thing, so they thought that included them, and we’ve not done a good enough job to educate them that the deadline did not apply to us,” Sunday-Allen said.
Sunday-Allen said benefit coordinators at the clinic have performed 300 consultations with patients about health insurance — but only six patients then enrolled in private health insurance plans through the marketplace.
That’s in part because more than 50 percent of those patients were part of the Medicaid “coverage gap.”
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At a glance
Of the total number of residents where race was known:
•36,960 of the residents who selected plans were white
•4,762 were black
•3,952 were Latino
•3,588 were Asian
•1,793 were multiracial
•1,638 were American Indian/Alaska Native
•51 were Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
•16,477 residents who enrolled were included in the “Unknown/Other” category.