|Updated: 11/19/2012 10:37 pm
||Published: 11/19/2012 11:54 am
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Gov. Mary Fallin says Oklahoma will not establish a state-run health insurance exchange under the federal health care law or expand its Medicaid eligibility to provide coverage to thousands of low-income, uninsured citizens.
Fallin made the announcement Monday. The Republican governor says the exchange was "forced on the people of Oklahoma by the Obama administration."
“After careful consideration, I have today informed U.S. Secretary of Health Kathleen Sebelius that Oklahoma will not pursue the creation of its own health insurance exchange. Any exchange that is PPACA compliant will necessarily be ‘state-run’ in name only and would require Oklahoma resources, staff and tax dollars to implement. It does not benefit Oklahoma taxpayers to actively support and fund a new government program that will ultimately be under the control of the federal government, that is opposed by a clear majority of Oklahomans, and that will further the implementation of a law that threatens to erode both the quality of American health care and the fiscal stability of the nation.
Senate president Pro Tempore Brian Binman released a statement about Fallin's decision,
"Oklahomans simply do not want anything to do with Obamacare, and Senate Republicans stand firmly with Governor Fallin in rejecting it,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “We want real, conservative solutions to the rising cost of healthcare—we want to make care more accessible, more affordable, and easier to obtain. I continue to believe Obamacare will fall short of accomplishing these goals."
It's now up to the federal government to set up the insurance exchange in Oklahoma.
The issue of complying with provisions of the federal health care law has been a politically difficult one for Fallin. Last year, the governor rejected $54 million in federal funding to set up a state-run exchange after bitter opposition from grass-roots activists and conservative members of the Republican-controlled Legislature.
“Moving forward, the state of Oklahoma will pursue two actions simultaneously. The first will be to continue our support for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s ongoing legal challenge of PPACA. General Pruitt’s lawsuit raises different Constitutional questions than previous legal challenges, and both he and I remain optimistic that Oklahoma’s challenge can succeed.
Our second and equally important task will be to pursue state-based solutions that improve health outcomes and contain costs for Oklahoma families. Serious reform, for instance, should be pursued in the area of Medicaid and public health, where effective chronic disease prevention and management programs could address the trend of skyrocketing medical bills linked to avoidable hospital and emergency room visits. I look forward to working with legislative leaders and lawmakers in both parties to pursue Oklahoma health care solutions for Oklahoma families.”
Law professor and director of the Health Law program at the University of Tulsa, Marguerite Chapman told FOX23 that there are a lot of unanswered questions about the announcement. "People will have to sit and wait to see what happens if and when the federal government sets up its own exchange program," said Chapman.
"People who would have qualified for state exchange program will still qualify, its just going to be a federal program instead of a state run program," said Chapman. In regards to the Medicaid expansion, Chapman says that Governor's decision means that people who would have been eligible under the expanded provision will remain in their current situation for now.
The Tulsa Metro Chamber president Mike Neal released a statement voicing concern with Fallin's decision,
"The Tulsa Metro Chamber is dedicated to the economic prosperity of Oklahoma and the Tulsa region. Our leadership, along with community and business leaders around the region, considered expanded Medicaid funding as a solution to our critical health care needs. Together, we chose to support accepting this expansion on the regional OneVoice agenda. Ideally, the Chamber would’ve liked to have seen Gov. Fallin recognize the possible benefits of expanded Medicaid funding. The health of our employees and workforce is integral to our success and therefore is a priority consideration when making decisions that impact our economy. We encourage Gov. Fallin and legislative leaders, through proactive discussions with the health care community, to pursue the best flexible option for the future of health care in Oklahoma. We also plan to work closely with our legislators and Gov. Fallin to identify and implement the best plan for Oklahoma, supporting healthy Oklahomans, a healthy workforce and a healthy economy."