NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:
It is sad to see Gov. Mary Fallin give in to the more radical wing of her party when it comes to accepting President Obama’s Patient Protection Affordable Care Act. Neither politics nor personal agendas should ever come before the safety and well-being of Oklahoma citizens.
After several years of budget shortfalls and agency cutbacks, it is a travesty of justice that the governor sent back $54 million and for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to continue to pursue the losing proposition of spending millions of tax dollars on his “vain” lawsuit to keep Oklahomans from enjoying the benefits of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Because Oklahoma has a high percentage of smokers and tobacco users, we have a high number of people suffering from various forms of cancer, lung disease and heart trouble. We also have more than our share of people who are obese, suffer from diabetes and other ailments that are preventable. Likewise, we rank very high in the number of teen pregnancies, so pre-natal and post-natal checkups are very important, as are well-child programs. Incidentally, did you know that the governor quietly signed an executive order allowing insurance companies to not cover children from birth through their first birthday? This is the most vulnerable year of any one’s life.
This is a perfect segue to mention the closure of pre-existing conditions. Without the ACA, a child born with asthma, autism or Asberger’s Syndrome would have a pre-existing condition, allowing insurance companies to refuse coverage to that child later in life, even for other medical conditions unrelated to those earlier mentioned. President Obama eliminated the pre-existing condition loop hole. That means that those Oklahoma kids born without insurance could now be covered by insurance and hopefully grow up healthy and able to lead a productive life.
Other positive benefits of the ACA include an elimination of retroactive cancellations, meaning that an insurance company could no longer raise your premiums or cancel your policy just because you filed a claim or accidentally left out information that had no bearing on your health. The act also prevents higher co-pays or co-insurance for out-of-network emergency room services. Additionally, insurance companies must spend at least 80 percent of your premium dollars on coverage, not for exorbitant CEO salaries and benefits. What’s not to like?
If the governor and Pruitt are successful, then 150,000 Oklahomans will be stuck in an insurance hole with no coverage. Not expanding Medicaid means low-income Oklahomans will be denied health care coverage and better health outcomes.
Apparently, Fallin and Pruitt prefer to let your federal tax dollars be spent on health care in other states. The reality is that the ACA is a very good deal for Oklahoma, since the federal government will pay 100 percebt of the cost for the first three years and 90 percent of the cost in 2020 and every year after that. Medicaid expansion could, in reality, save Oklahoma money, since Medicaid would pick up expenditures, currently paid for with state money, by the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and also those of the Department of Corrections. One has to wonder what the motivation is of Oklahoma’s Republican leaders to deny us participation in the president’s health care initiative?
Chair of Oklahoma Democratic Party, Norman