The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

February 13, 2013

Emails show change in Okla. health exchange policy


OKLAHOMA CITY — ‘Obamacare will taint you’

Former state Sen. Randy Brogdon, a deputy commissioner under Doak, publicly protested a state-based exchange but not in his capacity at the department.

Rather, Brogdon was listed as the lead author of an email in March sent out by the Tulsa County Republican Platform Committee that called on Fallin to return the $54 million in federal funds.

Brogdon was the only senior adviser in the Insurance Department who was opposed to building a state-based exchange, according to emails.

“On the surface a state exchange sounds like a better choice, but ultimately I believe a state exchange will usher in full fledge Obamacare to Oklahoma,” he wrote in a policy paper prepared by the department.

Brogdon could not be reached for comment Friday.

The emails demonstrate top Doak advisers were concerned that his acceptance of federal dollars might put him in a bind. In dozens of emails they encouraged him to walk a fine line between opposing Obama’s plan and pushing for a state-based exchange.

“There could be serious political repercussions for being involved in the implementation of the exchange,” wrote Rick Farmer, another deputy commissioner, in a policy paper shared via email. “A large part of your political success was the overwhelming opposition of Oklahomans to this overreaching, federal incursion. Implementing Obamacare will taint you.”

In another email, Farmer asked the Heritage Foundation, another conservative think tank, to write opinion pieces for newspapers in Tulsa and Oklahoma City that would explain why the grants and exchanges are OK, saying, “we are getting beat up pretty hard here in Oklahoma.”

Rep. Mike Ritze said on Friday that he would attribute the sudden change of plans more to pressure by “boots on the ground” — Oklahoma residents and lawmakers who did not want Fallin to pursue an exchange.

Ritze said several large rallies at the Capitol encouraged many top policymakers to reconsider the effort.

“The biggest concern would be the exchanges leading to a kind of backdoor approach to Obamacare,” he said.

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