Obama administration denies extension of Insure Oklahoma program for working poor

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Obama administration has denied the state of Oklahoma’s request to extend the life of Insure Oklahoma, a program of premium assistance benefitting the Sooner State’s working poor. 
Cindy Mann, director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services at the U.S. Department of Human Services, based in Baltimore, Maryland, delivered the death sentence to the Oklahoma program — created in 2004 by a popular vote, and fashioned by a bipartisan consensus – in a May 7 letter received by the state government on Tuesday afternoon. 

Referencing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Mann wrote, “The new law will mean that an extension of the Insure Oklahoma program without any changes is not possible.”

In her letter, Mann contended the federal government is “committed to working with you on approaches that work for Oklahoma.” However, she continued, the SoonerCare section 1115 demonstration (No 11-@-00048/6) includes enrollment caps which “will not be approved.” 

Mann suggested the program, which has provided access to the insurance market for thousands of low-income working Oklahomans could be revised to include “products available in the individual and small business insurance market.” She wrote the federal agency “would welcome working with you … consistent with our guidance.” 

Despite the agency’s refusal to approve extension of Insure Oklahoma, Mann wrote, “should the state decide to phase out the Insure Oklahoma program at the end of 2013, a phase out plan as provided for in paragraph 9 of your approved Special Terms and Conditions is due … by July 1, 2013.”

In a blunt reply to the letter from Mann, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said on Wednesday (May 8): 

Insure Oklahoma is a program that has been providing affordable health insurance to approximately 30,000 low-income Oklahomans since 2005. It is exactly the kind of successful, state-based solution to health care needs that the federal government should be encouraging. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration seems intent on dismantling the program, as evidenced by the recent denial of Insure Oklahoma’s Medicaid waiver. As a result, Insure Oklahoma will cease to exist at the end of this year and 30,000 Oklahomans will lose their current health care plans. 

“This is the latest bad news in the ongoing train wreck that is the Affordable Care Act. It is outrageous that President Obama is actively dismantling the successful health care programs established by states in order to force citizens onto Obamacare health insurance plans.

“The president promised the American people, ‘if you like you’re health insurance, you can keep it.’ He has not kept his word. Thirty thousand Oklahomans participating in Insure Oklahoma – and many more Americans across the country – are being forced off their health insurance plans.

“The president also promised the nation’s governors his administration would grant states the flexibility to pursue state-based solutions rather than one-size-fits-all policies. Again, that has proven to be untrue, as Oklahoma and other states are now finding their programs and waivers under assault by the Obama Administration.”

Fallin concluded her statement, sent to CapitolBeatOK on May 8 (Wednesday): “I encourage the president to keep his promises and reverse his decision to gut one of Oklahoma’s most successful health initiatives.” 

You may contact Patrick B. McGuigan at Patrick@capitolbeatok.com and follow us on Twitter: @capitolbeatok.