The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

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April 30, 2013

Health care coverage option drafted at state Capitol

OKLAHOMA CITY — A group of Republican lawmakers has developed an alternative plan to provide health coverage to uninsured Oklahomans that would require most recipients to work and pay modest copayments, The Associated Press has learned.

A draft copy of a bill obtained by the AP on Tuesday shows the Oklahoma Plan for Consumer Health Choice and Accountability would apply to Oklahoma residents who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $31,000 for a family of four. The plan could help provide health insurance coverage to up to 150,000 people who are currently uninsured, according to a tentative estimate from the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

The plan includes some elements of Insure Oklahoma, a premium assistance program that uses Medicaid funds to help provide coverage to about 30,000 low-income, working Oklahomans. It also builds on a proposal approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature in neighboring Arkansas that would allow the use of federal Medicaid funds to purchase private insurance.

Under the current draft of the bill, eligible Oklahomans would include those who are working or actively seeking work, single parents with children under 12 years old, those caring for elderly or disabled family members, and those eligible to receive mental health care services from the state. Prisoners also would be eligible for coverage, a move that could save the state millions of dollars in health care costs for inmates, although it’s likely that language will be removed from the final draft.

The OHCA, which oversees Medicaid in Oklahoma, would be directed to negotiate a federal waiver for the program that would allow it to receive enhanced federal Medicaid funds, but House author Rep. Doug Cox stressed the program is not a simple expansion of Medicaid authorized under the federal health care law.

“You don’t have to be working or looking for a job to be on Medicaid,” said Cox, an emergency room physician from Grove. “I could never get anything passed up here that has anything to do with Medicaid expansion or Obamacare. This is specifically crafted to be different.”

Republican Gov. Mary Fallin rejected the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion last November but has since been looking for other ways to extend health coverage to uninsured Oklahomans. At Fallin’s direction, the OHCA approved a $500,000 contract with Utah-based Leavitt Partners in January to look at some of the state’s other options.

Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said that while the governor has not personally reviewed the plan being developed by the Legislature, her Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger and Secretary of Health Terry Cline both have had conversations with legislators about the proposal.

“Clearly if it does get passed in the House and Senate and sent to the governor’s office, it is something that the governor would review carefully. But without the details of the plan, we can’t commit to supporting it,” Weintz said. “We do know that the plan was shared with Leavitt Partners, and that will be one of the options that group is sifting through before they make their recommendations to the Legislature and the governor.”

Cox said he has submitted the plan to House leadership for consideration, and the Senate author, Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, said he has requested that President Pro Tem Brian Bingman be a member of the conference committee that helps work out the details of the final bill.

According to OHCA estimates, about 17 percent of Oklahoma’s population, or 630,000 people, have no health insurance.


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