The Norman Transcript

May 12, 2013

Expanding plan could move state forward


The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The outside consultant hired to look at health insurance options for low-income Oklahomans seems to be taking a page from neighboring Arkansas. That state chose to expand its own health insurance options using federal funds.

Oklahoma could do the same with Insure Oklahoma, a state-based program that subsidizes employer and employee contributions, mostly from small businesses.

The 8-year-old program is paid for by tobacco tax dollars and federal subsidies. About 30,000 Oklahomans are currently enrolled in the program which the federal government has said it won’t fund after the Affordable Care Act kicks in.

Many of those now covered under Insure Oklahoma would be covered under the health insurance exchange. The governor has said she will expand the program to cover others who are not eligible for Medicaid.

Gov. Mary Fallin hasn’t budged in her stance against accepting a Medicaid expansion. The anticipated $3.6 billion in federal dollars over the next seven years would help Oklahoma health care providers and rural hospitals keep their doors open as they continue to treat the state’s poor.

Extending and expanding Insure Oklahoma seems like a back door solution but it could be the compromise needed to move the state forward.