Storms possible this weekend

Health insurance exchange deadline looms for Oklahoma

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OKLAHOMA CITY - There's a looming deadline for state leaders on what action to take with healthcare exchange plans.

It's one of the main goals of the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare."

Healthcare exchanges are essentially online shopping malls for health insurance.

Gov. Fallin did not accept a $54 million federal grant last year to set up an exchange.

"The state exchange will have to look like the federal exchange, that's our understanding," Rep. Randy Grau (R-Edmond) said. "We don't have a lot of flexibility on how it's controlled, how it's operated."

Grau said there are still many unanswered questions about Obamacare regarding the cost, rules and regulations.

That's why he said he believes Gov. Fallin is waiting until Friday's deadline to decide whether or not Oklahoma will run its own healthcare exchange or allow the federal government to run it.

"Unfortunately, this whole situation with the federal healthcare mandate has been like playing poker with somebody who gets to write their own rules and then they keep changing them as it goes along,"  Grau said. 

Grau points to former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's famous explanation of Obamacare two years ago, when she said "...but we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it."

"We still don't know totally what's in it," Grau said.

Gov. Fallin's spokesperson said last week, "Oklahoma is not in a unique position; many other states are continuing to weigh what options best serve their citizens, as is responsible."

Rep. Joe Dorman (D-Rush Springs) said Thursday there's a penalty for doing nothing.

"If we take no action, then basically the federal government is going to force us into a one-size-fits-all program, which no one wants," he said.

During Wednesday's inauguration at the State Capitol, Dorman asked lawmakers to sign a petition for a special session to design a state-run exchange using existing healthcare programs.

But his microphone was cut off.

"They (Republican leaders) would rather just fight and go under the guidelines of the federal healthcare act, force that on our citizens, rather than try and come up with a workable solution," Dorman said.

Gov. Fallin's office said Thursday evening they still do not have cost estimates for those exchanges and part of their frustration has been "the inability or unwillingness of the federal government to answer detailed questions about cost, rules and regulations etc."

The governor's decision on whether to establish a state-run exchange is expected Friday.

The Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner's office said they also won't have any guidelines on these exchanges until the Governor makes a decision.