Thousands of low-income Oklahomans will soon find themselves uninsured

by Graham Lee Brewer Modified: September 13, 2013 at 3:00 pm •  Published: September 12, 2013

The state will send letters within the next two weeks to about 8,000 Oklahomans to let them know they will be dropped from the Insure Oklahoma health system at the end of the year.

They will be given contact information for the federal Health Insurance Marketplace, which is being created under the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as a way for people to shop for government-subsidized health insurance beginning Oct. 1.

“We can't assist them in the application for the federal program, but we can point them in the right direction,” Nico Gomez, chief executive of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, said Thursday. “It's our intent to point them in the right direction, whether it's a website, telephone number or a real person navigator, we want to make sure they have those resources available to them.”

These “navigators” are a group of community action centers and health centers that have received federal grants to help people who do not have health insurance but make too much money to qualify for Medicaid.

One of the organizations that will be working as a navigator is the Little Dixie Community Action Agency, which is a consortium of 15 different organizations across the state. According to planning director Rhonda Teague, while they have never specialized in helping citizens find health insurance, they have always primarily worked with low-income Oklahomans.

“Someone has to be able to help these individuals,” Teague said.

Gov. Mary Fallin announced Sept. 6 that the federal government had agreed to extend the Insure Oklahoma program until the end of 2014. That extension comes with some compromises.

As of Jan. 1, 2014, applicants must be at or below the federal poverty level in order to qualify for the program. The current eligibility is twice the poverty level or below. The federal poverty level is $23,550 annually for a family of four.

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