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Oklahoma Watch: Oklahoma to remain on sidelines as Washington hands out health care money

The latest developments represent another twist and turn in a testy three-year relationship between the Obama administration and Gov. Mary Fallin
BY WARREN VIETH, Oklahoma Watch Modified: August 1, 2014 at 10:40 pm •  Published: August 3, 2014

Three years after turning down a $54 million federal grant to set up an Affordable Care Act demonstration project, the state of Oklahoma has declined to participate in another big Obamacare grant program.

Yet the state Health Department did choose recently to participate as a partner in a separate Medicaid grant application headed by a Tulsa health care organization. That application was rejected by the Obama administration.

Although the two actions appear somewhat contradictory, the bottom line is the same: Oklahoma will remain on the sidelines as Washington hands out money to states and health care groups that apply to participate in Affordable Care Act grant programs.

The latest developments represent another twist and turn in a testy three-year relationship between the Obama administration and Gov. Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma Legislature over provisions of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

“Every month we learn a new lesson about why the state of Oklahoma should stay as far away from Obamacare as possible,” Fallin told Oklahoma Watch in a written statement. “The law has cost millions of people their health insurance, is failing to bend the cost curve for medical care, and is constantly in danger of being thrown out by courts for being constitutionally suspect.”

Grant rejected

Before Fallin took office in early 2011, the Brad Henry administration had applied for a $54 million Early Innovators grant to develop the information technology infrastructure needed to create a state-based health insurance exchange.

In February 2011, Fallin and legislative leaders announced that the state had received the grant and planned to proceed with it. A bill authorizing the project was approved by the House. It stalled in the Senate, and state leaders announced in April 2011 that they had decided to reject the grant.

Fallin and legislative leaders said at the time they intended to enact a state-run Health Insurance Private Enterprise Network to prevent the establishment of a federal health exchange in Oklahoma. That never happened.

In 2013, when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services solicited applications for a new program called the State Innovation Models Initiative, Oklahoma declined to participate in the first round of grant awards totaling $250 million. The purpose of the program was to design and test innovative approaches to improve care and lower health costs at the state level.

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About Oklahoma Watch

Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit journalism organization that produces in-depth and investigative content on a range of public-policy issues in the state. For more Oklahoma Watch content, go to

You throw your hat in the ring and see, put your best foot forward and hope you understand how they’re making their selections.”

Dr. David Kendrick,
CEO of MyHealth Access


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