Gov. Mary Fallin will be talking with her Republican counterparts before deciding by Friday's deadline whether Oklahoma is going to form a state electronic health insurance exchange.
“We'll have some kind of an announcement, but after that Republican Governors Association meeting,” Alex Weintz, Fallin's communications director, said Monday.
The deadline for states to declare their plans to federal officials remains Friday.
The U.S. Health and Human Services Department late last week extended the deadline until Dec. 14 to submit a plan to develop an insurance exchange, which would align the uninsured with insurance providers.
States also can decide to develop a state-federal partnership or enroll residents in a federal exchange program. Oklahoma is one of several states that has not developed a health insurance exchange, as required under the federal Affordable Care Act.
“Governor Fallin is continuing to explore the state's options as they relate to health insurance exchanges,” Weintz said. “Her priority is to ensure the people of Oklahoma are best served by a system that increases access to health care, controls health care costs and does so in a way that is fiscally responsible. Oklahoma is not in a unique position; many other states are continuing to weigh what options best serve their citizens, as is responsible.”
Funding among topics
Fallin will be attending the Republican Governors Association annual conference, which begins Wednesday in Las Vegas. She'll be at that conference through Thursday. She leaves Friday for the National Governors Association annual meeting in San Diego. Fallin is vice chairman of the bipartisan organization.
At the Republican governors conference, discussions will take place on health care and other topics, such as looming federal budget cuts on the states.
Before going to either conference for governors, Fallin leaves Tuesday for Arizona to speak to the Goldwater Institute in Phoenix. Fallin, along with South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, will speak Tuesday evening. The event benefits the Goldwater Institute, a nonprofit advocacy and research organization that supports policies favoring lower taxes, limited government spending and school choice.
Fallin encouraged lawmakers for four months this year to cut the state's top personal income tax rate, but legislators and the governor were unable to reach a final agreement before the session ended in late May.
The Goldwater Institute supports Fallin's decision to return a $54.6 million federal grant last year that would have been used to set up an insurance exchange system. Fallin and Republican legislative leaders at first accepted the grant, then rejected the offer after hearing complaints from Republicans and conservatives in the state. Oklahomans in 2010 voted to opt out of the federal health care law.
The Goldwater Institute is paying for Fallin's transportation to Phoenix, Weintz said. Fallin is not being paid for her appearance.
Fallin will leave Phoenix for the Republican Governors Association annual conference. Costs of that trip will be paid from the governor's campaign funds, Weintz said.
The trip to San Diego for the National Governors Association meeting and the return flight to Oklahoma City will be paid with state funds, he said. The state usually pays for trips to the National Governors Association because the governor attends in an official capacity as the state's chief executive.