Obama Administration Guts Oklahoma Program for Working Poor

Published May 31, 2013

The Obama administration has denied Oklahoma’s request to extend Insure Oklahoma, a program of premium assistance benefitting the Sooner State’s working poor.

Republican Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin encouraged President Obama “to keep his promises and reverse his decision to gut one of Oklahoma’s most successful health initiatives” in a letter released in the wake of the decision. The state has until July 1 to begin phasing out the program.

Obamacare the Culprit

Cindy Mann, director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, delivered the death sentence to the Oklahoma program—created in 2004 by a popular vote and fashioned by a bipartisan legislature—in a May 7 letter.

“The new law will mean that an extension of the Insure Oklahoma program without any changes is not possible,” Mann wrote, referring to Obama’s health care law.

Mann contended the federal government is “committed to working with you on approaches that work for Oklahoma.” However, she continued, the SoonerCare Section 1115 demonstration includes enrollment caps, which “will not be approved.”

Mann suggested the program, which has provided access to the insurance market for thousands of low-income working Oklahomans, could be revised to include “products available in the individual and small business insurance market.” She wrote the federal agency “would welcome working with you … consistent with our guidance” to produce a phase-out plan for the program by July 1, 2013.

‘Assault’ on State Programs, Waivers

The Fallin administration is not pleased with the news. In a letter responding to CMS, Fallin decried the decision.

“Insure Oklahoma is a program that has been providing affordable health insurance to approximately 30,000 low-income Oklahomans since 2005. It is exactly the kind of successful, state-based solution to health care needs that the federal government should be encouraging. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration seems intent on dismantling the program…. As a result, Insure Oklahoma will cease to exist at the end of this year and 30,000 Oklahomans will lose their current health care plans.”

Referring to Obama’s law as a “train wreck,” Fallin accused the administration of “dismantling the successful health care programs established by states in order to force citizens onto Obamacare health insurance plans.”

“The president promised the American people, ‘if you like your health insurance, you can keep it.’ He has not kept his word. Thirty thousand Oklahomans participating in Insure Oklahoma—and many more Americans across the country—are being forced off their health insurance plans,” Fallin wrote. “The president also promised the nation’s governors his administration would grant states the flexibility to pursue state-based solutions rather than one-size-fits-all policies. Again, that has proven to be untrue, as Oklahoma and other states are now finding their programs and waivers under assault by the Obama Administration.”

Fallin concluded, “I encourage the president to keep his promises and reverse his decision to gut one of Oklahoma’s most successful health initiatives.”

Patrick B. McGuigan ([email protected]) writes for Watchdog.org, where a version of this article previously appeared.