NORMAN — Apprehension and optimism abound in Oklahoma as the Affordable Care Act shifts into higher gear with the opening of the federally-run health-care marketplace on Tuesday.
At the same time, residents and business owners are awaiting the unveiling of an “Oklahoma Plan” to expand health coverage and improve health outcomes that Gov. Mary Fallin promised in her State of the State speech earlier this year.
These and other topics were discussed Tuesday evening during the first “Oklahoma Watch-Out” community forum presented by Oklahoma Watch, a nonprofit journalism group. The event was held at Kamps 1910 Café in Oklahoma City.
The featured guests were Terry Cline, Oklahoma commissioner of health and Gov. Mary Fallin’s secretary of health and human services, and Andrew Rice, executive director of the Variety Care Foundation and a former state senator.
Both Cline and Rice told the crowd of about 65 some of the ways the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare,” would affect Oklahomans and how the state has responded to implementation of the law. They also answered questions from the audience that ranged from how the law would affect rural hospitals to whether young uninsured people will seek coverage.
Cline said the health-care law would greatly expand access to health care for many individuals, but that increased access was only part of the solution.
Rice, whose foundation supports the Variety Care system of clinics for low-income people, said access is key to better health outcomes and without access, it would cost more to treat the sick people who only get sicker without care.
“We in the community heath-center movement do believe wellness is easier with access,” Rice said.
Cline was asked why the state is not doing more to inform the public about how to enroll in the health care exchanges, where people can shop online for private insurance. He said the state did not receive federal funds to put the information out there and the state wants to offer accurate information about the complex, often confusing law.