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Healthcare Policy Expert: Insure Oklahoma A Model, More People Accepting Obamacare

University of Minnesota political scientist Lawrence Jacobs during a Nov. 10, 2014 luncheon at the Jim Thorpe Association and Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.
Kate Carlton Greer
University of Minnesota political scientist Lawrence Jacobs during a Nov. 10, 2014 luncheon at the Jim Thorpe Association and Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame.

Over the weekend, millions of Americans had the opportunity to sign up for health insurance as the annual enrollment window opened for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

University of Minnesota political scientist Lawrence Jacobs traveled to Oklahoma City last week to speak at an Oklahoma Policy Institute luncheon. He argued state and federal officials would soon shift discussions away from an outright repeal of the healthcare plan.

Now that the 2014 midterm elections are over, Jacobs says what was once a political tinderbox has become more widely accepted.

“Opinion is kind of now split,” Jacobs said. “The sense of ‘Grab your pitchfork and let’s take out the ACA,’ – that’s no longer there.”

The Oklahoman’s Jaclyn Cosgrove reports that a recent Stanford University study indicates bipartisan support for the Affordable Care Act increases as people learn more details about the law.

“So for a Republican that’s quite opposed to the Affordable Care Act, as they get more knowledge, you move up towards about half supporting it,” Jacobs said. “And among Democrats, as you would expect, you move up to almost universal support, and among independents, also you move up close to 80 percent support.” Former state Sen. Andrew Rice, executive director of the Variety Care Foundation, asked Jacobs about concerns over funding for community heath centers. Variety Care has clinics across the Oklahoma City metro area and southwestern Oklahoma that provide care to low-income Oklahomans. Jacobs said although the public will likely see inaction in Congress, where they will see action is in funding cuts, including cuts to community health center funding. “The Affordable Care Act and before that the stimulus money has revolutionized these community health care clinics in terms of what they can do, but the funding ends,” Jacobs said.

In a series of nationwide exit polls conducted after the Nov. 4 general election, Jacobs says more conservatives, independents and liberals are open-minded to the idea of reforming – instead of repealing – Obamacare.

Jacobs also contended both state and federal officials nationwide are broadening their horizons beyond any original goals when it comes to the future of healthcare.

“The idea of repeal is old,” Jacobs said. “That is coming off a campaign trail. The real question that we need to be thinking about is, ‘What kind of reform are we going to be looking at?’”

Jacobs admits Congress will most likely try to repeal Obamacare, but the president will veto any attempts.

After his presentation, Jacobs spoke with the online news publication Red Dirt Report about the most likely scenario for Oklahoma.

He then referred to a health insurance exchange that has already been successfully under way in Oklahoma, only just for employers and their employees. "Insure Oklahoma is something that the state's proud of. It's a way to work with that. You can look at that Arkansas private option and there are some similarities there. There are ways to do reform that are very supportive of the conservative agenda. Tax cuts are something that Republicans who I know would welcome." The realities of continuing to not accept flexible monies that are offered to Oklahoma just out of political spite are costing us, according to Jacobs. "As Oklahoma wrestles with its budget, as it wrestles with the fact that it's paying millions of dollars for charity care that gets passed on [to taxpayers], as it sees its safety net hospitals and frankly a part of the middle class struggling to pay bills, there are Oklahoma solutions to those problems, and nothing to do with Obamacare. I'm seeing Republican states all around the country putting on their thinking caps."

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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