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Oklahoma Law To Ask For Obamacare Waiver On Fallin’s Desk

Members of the Oklahoma State Board of Health hold a meeting at the Oklahoma State Department of Health at 1000 NE 10th St. in Oklahoma City Tuesday.
Brent Fuchs
The Journal Record
Members of the Oklahoma State Board of Health hold a meeting at the Oklahoma State Department of Health at 1000 NE 10th St. in Oklahoma City Tuesday.

Half a decade after President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law in 2010, states will be able to submit plans for their own version of the law starting next year.

Lawmakers have authorized state health officials to come up with their own plan for providing health insurance to the state’s population. It’s now on Gov. Mary Fallin’s desk, waiting for her signature, The Journal Record’s Dale Denwalt reports:

“For six years, we’ve had our hands tied,” said state Rep. Glen Mulready, an author of the bill. So far, even though the Legislature has approved development of a waiver, officials are unsure what policies the waiver will include. Mulready, R-Tulsa, said he would like to see an expansion of the insurance premium rate bands that were compressed under the ACA, sometimes known as Obamacare. “So you have younger people paying more than they should be paying; they’re supplementing the older folks,” he said.

Oklahoma Health and Human Services Secretary Terry Cline would be allowed to develop and submit the waiver.

Over the next several months, agencies will meet with each other and with industry stakeholders to craft a plan. Deputy Health Secretary Julie Cox-Kain told Denwalt the federal government could receive the comprehensive waiver request early next year.

Kain…also said one of the problems seen with ACA implementation has been the increase of premiums, particularly among younger, healthy people. On the federally facilitated marketplace, she said, more plans have the highest deductible. With such high deductibles, insured people are still receiving uncompensated care because they haven’t reached the limit. “We have some families in Oklahoma with deductibles as high as $20,000 for a family of four,” Cox-Kain said. “They essentially have insurance then that’s only good if they have something really catastrophic.”

The waiver would allow the state to modify or ignore some parts of the ACA as insurers try to cut costs through the reduction of benefits packages and narrowing of provider networks.

According to Denwalt, whatever Oklahoma decides to do, it has to meet four guidelines:

The number of people with coverage cannot be reduced The request cannot increase the federal deficit Insurance coverage must be as affordable as before The waiver must still allow for comprehensive health insurance coverage. “There are multiple steps we’ll have to walk through, and we’ll have to convince the federal government that we met all four of those guardrails before they will consider our waiver application,” Cox-Kain said.

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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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