Insure Oklahoma Program Receives One-Year Reprieve

Published October 17, 2013

Oklahoma has received a one-year extension of Insure Oklahoma, the insurance premium assistance program which had been threatened by regulations under President Obama’s health care law. Federal officials have granted a waiver to keep the state-designed program in place through the end of 2014.

“Insure Oklahoma has been in place since 2005,” Republican Gov. Mary Fallin said, making the announcement at a state Capitol news conference in September. “It has been a success for tens of thousands of families of modest means, who would be uninsured without it.”

The program has enjoyed widespread bipartisan support in the Sooner State, including a strong popular mandate for a 2004 ballot initiative that provided financing through tobacco taxes.

Despite the extension of Insure Oklahoma, for individuals the qualification requirement will be tightened, dropping from 200 percent to 100 percent of the federal poverty level, or $23,550 a year for a family of four. Although thousands of Oklahomans will retain coverage, thousands more will be moved into the health care exchange system for federal subsidies to purchase private insurance.

“Basically we bought ourselves some time,” Fallin said.

The extension included some changes in co-pay levels, but inpatient hospital services ($50 per stay) and emergency room services ($30 per visit) will remain the same.

Feds’ ‘Shaky Promises’

Jonathan Small, a fiscal policy analyst for the free-market Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, expressed a mixed opinion.

“Insure Oklahoma is popular because it includes work requirements, enrollment caps, cost sharing, and other responsible limitations,” said Small. “The fact that such a successful program was held hostage by the Obama administration shows us why the state of Oklahoma must continue to become less dependent on the federal government rather than leaning on them more heavily by expanding a broken Medicaid system.”

Small says the Medicaid expansion—which Oklahoma has rejected so far—would allow the federal government to take over more of the state’s insurance market.

“OCPA and many others in the state continue to encourage state leaders to refuse any form of ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion and to operate Insure Oklahoma independent of any involvement from the federal government,” said Small. “Citizens and businesses need to know what they can expect, and this type of back and forth shows just how shaky the federal government’s promises can be.”