OKLAHOMA CITY – Gov. Mary Fallin announced Monday the state will not create a state-based health insurance exchange or participate in the Medicaid expansion in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”
In a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Governor stated while she remained “deeply committed to the health of Oklahomans, it would be irresponsible of me to commit our state to the development of an insurance exchange based on the information provided by HHS to date.”
Health insurance exchanges allow people to shop for different plans online.
Either the state runs it or the federal government will.
So for now, the governor said Oklahoma will keep pursuing local solutions to improve healthcare and contain costs for families.
“It does not benefit Oklahoma taxpayers to actively support or fund a new government program,” Gov. Fallin said.
The message was a disappointment to some.
“I would like to be able to go to the doctors that I need to go to, just like everybody else,” Sutton Taggart said.
Taggart said health insurance has been unaffordable, so she has been looking forward to coverage under Obamacare and disagrees with Gov. Fallin’s decision to not create a state insurance exchange.
“Either you pay for it by insurance and maybe get people some preventative care or you pay for it when they are disabled and sick and have to go to the emergency room for every little thing,” Taggart said.
By law, the Governor’s decision means Oklahoma will eventually default to having the federal government run its exchange.
But before then, Fallin said she will continue supporting the Oklahoma Attorney General’s ongoing legal challenge of the implementation of certain provisions of Obamacare.
She said Oklahoma will also not participate in the President’s expansion of Medicaid because it would cost the state $475 million between now and 2020 and lead to budget cuts of important state programs.
“It would also further Oklahoma’s reliance on federal money that may or may not be available in future years out,” Gov. Fallin said.
Democratic State Rep. Joe Dorman (D-Rush Springs) wanted a special session for legislators to devise a state-run exchange.
He calls the pending lawsuit a waste of time.
“I will guarantee you that we will spend more money fighting this in a lawsuit with no good outcome than what we would’ve spent trying to come up with an exchange that would have fit the needs of Oklahoma,” Dorman said.
The governor said even on the phone, the U.S. Health Secretary admitted they don’t have all the answers to fiscal questions about Obamacare.
U.S. Senator Tom Coburn applauds the Governor’s decision, saying Obamacare would hurt Oklahomans with increasing costs, fewer choices, and placing an unsustainable fiscal burden on the state.