The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 9, 2012

Decision time in Oklahoma for Obama’s heath care law


Enid News & Eagle

— At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we’ve been saying since last summer that Oklahoma could be forced into a federal health care exchange this month.

That was well before the election, when state leaders consistently hedged their bets — and consistently lost — in earlier rounds.

The first gamble was the Legislature rejecting $54 million in federal money to help set up new online insurance marketplaces — or exchanges — where people could comparison-shop for health insurance.

Our wagering lawmakers delayed implementing so-called “Obamacare” while waiting for the results of a Supreme Court challenge, a decision that in June essentially declared the bulk of the law constitutional.

The third time was not a charm. Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak and Gov. Mary Fallin both hoped the election would change the equation. Strike three. We’re running out of options.

Garfield County is arguably the reddest county of the union’s reddest state, and “Obamacare” is wildly unpopular.

However, as Republican John Boehner of Ohio said Thursday, “Obamacare is the law of the land.” Sandy Praeger, Kansas’ Republican insurance commissioner, told The Associated Press we’ve left political gamesmanship to face reality.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s amended complaint challenges a new Internal Revenue Service rule and seeks recognition that the Oklahoma Constitution protects citizens from mandated purchases of health care.

Now what? By Friday, states must notify Washington whether they’ll be setting up new exchanges, in which millions of households and small businesses will shop for private coverage. The Health and Human Services Department will run the exchanges in states that aren’t ready or willing.

We’ve had months to outline implementation of a state-based exchange for more local control. The feds don’t want to operate our exchange, but they are willing and obligated to operate their version as long as necessary.

Fallin now is considering the next step.

“The election ended a very short time ago, as you know,” Alex Weintz, spokesman for Fallin, told the Tulsa World. “Her priority is not to make this decision as quickly as possible; it is to make the right decision.

“She has never ruled out the possibility of creating a state-based exchange and has kept Oklahoma’s options open on that front.”

That’s good to know. It will be even better when we know what Oklahoma is doing.