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Overall health, not 'Obamacare,' to be focus on Fallin's health plan

Gov. Mary Fallin will deliver her State of the State address Monday, outlining her vision for the upcoming year. With that, she will address reforms and initiatives aimed at improving the health of Oklahomans.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: February 3, 2013

It's possible to change how residents view their health, the things they eat and the amount they exercise, but it takes time and the proper amount of funding targeted strategically, Cline said.

Cline gave the example of smoking indoors and how not that long ago, people could smoke inside the Oklahoma Capitol.

“We have the changed social expectation around that, so that tells me we can do this too,” Cline said. “ ... To me, it's not a question of whether it will be done or if it can be done, because the answer is yes to both of those, the question is — how quickly can we do it?”

In November, Gov. Fallin announced Oklahoma would not expand its Medicaid program or create a state-run health insurance exchange. Both provisions are part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal health reform law that is known as “Obamacare.”

By not expanding Medicaid, critics of Fallin have argued that Oklahoma is missing out on millions in federal dollars it would receive to cover thousands of uninsured low-income adult residents.

In 2010, about 691,000 residents were uninsured, representing about 22 percent of the state's population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Sen. Sean Burrage, D-Claremore, filed a bill for the upcoming legislative session, which begins Monday, that would require Oklahoma to expand Medicaid.

Burrage, the minority leader in the Senate, doesn't think the bill will go far but filed it because he wants to keep the conversation around Medicaid expansion going.

“In Oklahoma, we have the opportunity to get health insurance for 180,000 low-income working adults that don't have access to health care now,” Burrage said.

Reuters reported that four Republican governors in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and North Dakota have come out in support of expanding Medicaid.

Waiting for ideas

Burrage said it's not too late for Fallin to change her mind. The state already receives about $3 billion in federal money for Medicaid, and the money it would receive to expand Medicaid shouldn't be viewed any differently, Burrage said.

Burrage said he looks forward to hearing more about what Fallin's goals are for improving Oklahoma's health.

“I have not heard anything, other than what I've read in the paper, and the first paragraph of an article in your paper or the Tulsa World said we're going to come up with a plan that uses state and federal dollars,” Burrage said. “I stop right there — are we having another plan just because that way it's not considered to be the Affordable Care Act or do we really have a better idea?”

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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