Rather than concentrating solely on health care reform, Gov. Mary Fallin plans to focus her attention in the upcoming legislative session on how to improve the overall health of Oklahomans.
Oklahoma has long had some of the worst health rankings in the nation, with the state facing high rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and poor mental health.
Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said most of those negative outcomes are not related to the availability of medical treatment or health insurance but instead to preventable illnesses.
“The greatest contributors to Oklahoma's poor health rankings are high rates of smoking, substance abuse and obesity,” Weintz said. “The governor is continuing to focus on initiatives that encourage healthy life choices and address the root causes of poor health in Oklahoma. One of the many unfortunate things about Obamacare is it has been a distraction, rather than a solution, to the real problems that are driving up the cost of health care and making people sick.”
Fallin will reveal more details on her health plan on Monday during her State of the State speech.
Where the money will come from to finance that plan has not been announced, but some of it is anticipated to come through existing programs and funding increases to some health-related state agencies, Weintz said.
Health leaders say the state has not seen a comprehensive approach to improving its health come out of the Legislature in several years.
Oklahoma ranks No. 43 in its overall health, facing a growing number of residents with chronic disease, and a limited number of primary care physicians, according to the United Health Foundation's annual health rankings.
State Health Commissioner Terry Cline called Fallin's approach “visionary.”
“It would have been very easy to say we're simply going to look at our existing system and let it expand or contract,” Cline said.
Instead, Fallin has been focused on how to improve residents' health outcomes and what the state can do the cut down on the cost of health care, Cline said.
“The cost trajectory we have is unsustainable, so we have to do something to bring those costs down, and we know that access to care is important, so what can we do to increase access to care, improve health outcomes and bend the cost curve?” Cline said.
Cline said the Affordable Care Act does not take the same approach and provide enough of an answer to the problems Oklahoma faces in residents' overall health.