Governor Fallin says Bingman decision on exchange bill “not helpful”

In a late afternoon press conference with Capitol reporters today, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin repeated her strong opposition to the federal health care law. However, commenting on Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman’s decision not to consider House Bill 2130, she told reporters today:

 “I’m disappointed that the president pro tem has made a sudden announcement. I don’t think it’s helpful for us not to have plan.”

 Fallin reasserted her view that inaction “lays the basis for the federal government to come in and impose a plan” on the state. The chief executive expressed worry that there are “just a couple of weeks” for bills to start through the process. 

 If the state does not have a plan in place this calendar year, and waits until 2012 to finalize one, Oklahoma would face “a very tight time frame” to comply with the new health care law’s mandates. She said “the only way to avoid federal control is for Oklahoma to have a plan.”

 Saying she still hopes the Supreme Court will strike down “ObamaCare,” Fallin said that for now “it remains the law of the land.”

 Fallin said she had not yet discussed the matter anew with the Pro Tem, and said, “The speaker put forth a plan. I had a plan. I look for the president pro tem to come forward with his plan. I haven’t had a chance to talk with him, so I don’t know.” 

 Echoing Speaker Kris Steel, Fallin said, “There are legitimate concerns. There are discussions, and I’m listening to them.” She noted the federal grant announced for the state had received the support of key officials, including Bingman, when it was announced last month. She pointed out application for the federal grant was made by former Governor Brad Henry. 

 Fallin said discussions had been under way for alternative language to create the health care exchange, with plans to “put it in a bill.” She noted the state had not yet received any federal money, and that receipt of the grant money would be staggered over several months. At one point she said, concerning potential delay in development of an exchange in the 2012 session, “I think it’s going to be hard to get it done next year.” 

 While critical of the federal law, Fallin contended that officials with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services were allowing “broad leeway to the states.” She added, “They want the states to give them ideas” on rules, regulations and other steps in the process. 

 As discussion with the group of journalists continued, the governor said, concerning Bingman’s decision, “I don’t think it’s helpful. What’s best for Oklahoma is for everyone to sit down and address this.” She promised, “We’ll continue on with the discussion.” 

 Fallin pointed out — as have other defenders of the exchange concept — that it originated with the conservative Heritage Foundation. The governor said she and her staff have been in communication with the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs to seek input on exchange language that would protect citizens from imposition of “ObamaCare.”