Health insurance? Fooey! (Oklahoma Gazette)

Why does the standoff between Gov. Mary Fallin and the Affordable Care Act remind us of the battle between Sylvester and Tweety Bird?

First, the Republican governor delayed implementing aspects of the ACA, otherwise known as Obamacare, in hopes that it would be rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court. When that plan failed, she and others counted on the election of a Republican president to push its repeal.

That plan didn’t work out so well, either.

Finally, it’s come to the policy-making equivalent of Fallin covering her ears and ululating loudly so as to drown out the law of the land. She announced early this week that the state would not proceed with two key provisions of the ACA: a health care exchange and expanding Medicaid coverage.

The decision means that the federal government, not the state, will establish an exchange through which small businesses and individuals can select and purchase health insurance. Early this year, Oklahoma received more than $54 million in federal money to set up an exchange, but Fallin returned the funds under pressure from conservative lawmakers and activists.

On the Medicaid issue, Fallin said the Medicaid expansion would cost Oklahoma $475 million between now and 2020, inevitably leading to massive cuts to worthwhile state programs.

In Oklahoma, Obamacare is only slightly less popular than al-Qaeda and child pornographers (to say nothing of al-Qaeda child pornographers), despite more than 18 percent of the state’s population lacking health insurance. Consequently, Fallin’s announcement drew praise from oodles of conservative lawmakers.

Among the few voices of dissent was David Blatt, director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a Tulsa think tank. He noted that taxpayers here will simply be funding Medicaid expansion in other states while leaving about 150,000 Oklahomans in a “coverage crater” in which they earn too much to qualify for traditional Medicaid, but earn too little to afford private insurance, even with ACA subsidies in place.

“Hospitals, community health centers, physicians and other medical providers across Oklahoma will continue to absorb unnecessarily high levels of uncompensated care, while shifting costs to Oklahomans with insurance through higher charges and insurance premiums,” Blatt said.

Maybe so, Mr. Blatt — and the Oklahoma Hospital Association evidently agrees with you — but don’t go overestimating the importance of health insurance and a healthy populace. Morticians, cemetery owners and gravediggers contribute to the local economy, too, y’know.


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