Insure Oklahoma, premium support program, gets one-year extension

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma has garnered a one-year extension of Insure Oklahoma, the insurance premium assistance program. Federal officials have granted a one-year waiver to keep the state-designed program in place through the end of 2014.

Gov. Mary Fallin, making the announcement at a state Capitol press conference Friday, said, “Insure Oklahoma has been in place in 2005. It has been a success for tens of thousands of families of modest means, who would be uninsured without it.”

The program has enjoyed widespread bipartisan support in the Sooner State, including a strong popular mandate for a 2004 ballot initiative that provided financing through tobacco taxes.

Despite the extension of Insure Oklahoma, for individuals the qualification levels is dropping from 200 percent to 100 percent of the federal poverty level. While thousands of Oklahomans will retain coverage, thousands of others will become eligible for federal subsidies to purchase private insurance. 

Gov. Fallin said “basically we bought ourselves some time.” Joining her to announce the extension were state Health Commissioner Terry L. Cline and Oklahoma Health Care Authority Director Nico Gomez. 

The agreement with the feds extends Insure Oklahoma until Dec. 31. 2014. However, qualification will be limited to 100 percent of the federal poverty level ($23,550 a year for a family of four). The present qualification is triggered at 200 percent of the poverty level ($47,100 for a family of four). 

The extension included some changes in co-pay levels, but inpatient hospital services ($50 per stay) and emergency room services ($30 per visit) will remain the same. 

Response from a leading critic of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), widely known as ObamaCare, was mixed. 

Jonathan Small, fiscal policy analyst for the free-market Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, told CapitolBeatOK, “Insure Oklahoma is popular because it includes work requirements, enrollment caps, cost sharing and other responsible limitations. The fact that such a successful program was held hostage by the Obama Administration shows us why the State of Oklahoma must continue to become less dependent on the federal government rather than leaning on them more heavily by expanding a broken Medicaid system.”

“OPCA and many others in the state continue to encourage state leaders to refuse any form of ObamaCare’s Medicaid expansion and should seek to operate Insure Oklahoma independent of any involvement from the federal government. Citizens and businesses need to know what they can expect, and this type of back and forth shows just how shaky the federal government’s promises can be.”

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