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A push to comply with the federal health care law

Filed by KOSU News in Feature, Health, Local News.
June 29, 2012

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President Obama, then Senator Obama, voted against the confirmation of John Roberts. Putting bad feelings aside, the Supreme Court Chief Justice proved to be the swing vote in ruling the health care law constitutional. So that’s the wide view. In Oklahoma, where do we go from here?

Once President Obama’s pen hit paper and signed the health care legislation into law, it set into motion a so-called individual mandate that people get health insurance. States were supposed to establish their own health care exchanges, for people to find and buy insurance, if it wasn’t available through a job. The feds offered states cash to put together an exchange. But shortly after, Governor Fallin rejected it

“If we would’ve accepted the 54 million, acceptance of the grant stated that we would become in full compliance with the Affordable Care Act. So it’s a policy because we did not want to mandate the coverage for all the citizens of Oklahoma without the Supreme Court decision,” said Senator Gary Stanislawski (R).

Even after returning the check to sender, legislators studied how the state would have to comply with the law. Republican Senator Gary Stanislawski chaired a legislative task force last session that even issued a 32 page report. But when Oklahoma and others challenged the law, committee leadership pressed pause on the legislative work. Tulsa Republican Senator Brian Crain was one of the members…

“Some of that needs to be done, some of it the preliminary work has been done. As far as detailing what that is, I think we’re going to have to look and see what exactly was required under the Supreme Court decision.”

Now the state has to get that exchange up and running. David Blatt with the left leaning Oklahoma Policy Institute

“That federal money would’ve allowed Oklahoma to develop a state of the art, user friendly exchange that would’ve really positioned us well for our entire health care system.”

All is not lost. The rough sketches have been formed. Senator Crain goes back to 2004, when the state created a program to help some find and purchase health insurance, with state assistance, similar to the federal law, minus the mandate.

“What was being proposed out of the task force, was a exchange that was very similar and was along the lines of the Insure Oklahoma plan.”

That’s a plan set up for the poor and small business owners to get insurance on the open market. There are some that want the state to go farther than that. The right leaning think tank the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs says if, if, you have to run an exchange, turn it over to the private sector. Jonathan Small, their fiscal policy director.

“So instead of it being the strict, we’re only going to limit you to one choice options that are out there with the federal exchange, it would now open up lots of different options.”

Okay, so what now? No matter who you ask, it’s going to be a push to get a blueprint done by November. But as of right now, a spokesperson for Governor Fallin says she isn’t planning a special session. Again, David Blatt…

“We could still meet that deadline. But we certainly can’t do so unless there was a clear will and commitment of resources to do that. If we don’t do anything, then we are fully on a path for a federally implemented exchange where it will be the federal government doing this.”

Political leaders in the state aren’t giving up hope they can get the law repealed. That’s possible if Mitt Romney is the next president. No matter what happens, the state has to get something together. Senator Crain.

“But I think the worst thing that we can possibly do is to sit back and do nothing. Which would allow the federal government become more involved in our lives than I think anyone would want them to be.”

Crain, a part of the legislative committee studying the law. And that committee’s leader, Senator Stanislawski, is still sorting through the next steps…

“It’s probably going to be a couple weeks before any type of pathway is established. It will just take some time.”

That’s time the state is rapidly running out of. November 16th is only getting closer.

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