Uninsured Oklahomans remain a problem we should take seriously

The News on 6 in Tulsa reported last week on Oklahomans who lack health insurance. OK Policy’s David Blatt was featured in the story, available here in both print and video, describing who is likely to be uninsured and explaining how care for the uninsured drives up premium costs for everybody.

The News on 6 reported that Oklahoma uninsured rates are down from four years ago, according to the Census Bureau. That’s good news, but the recession may be reversing what progress we have made. Last month, the Gallup Organization released new data showing uninsured rates rising again, both for Oklahoma and the nation as a whole.Oklahoma continues to lag behind other states in insurance coverage, regardless of who is measuring. Gallup reports that our 2009 uninsured percentage–22.2 percent–ranks us 45th, tied with Nevada and above only Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas. This year’s uninsured percentage is up from 20.6 percent in 2008.

The Census Bureau will be releasing new data on insurance coverage–or the lack of it–later this month. We’ll be reporting on the information as it becomes available, and we’ll be suggesting ways to attack the problem. The numbers matter, but not as much as the problem they represent. Uninsured Oklahomans don’t have the same choices or prospects for a healthy life as everyone else. We all pay the cost, through higher insurance premiums and through higher public costs.

Health care is and should remain a partnership between individuals and the federal and state governments. We’d like to see Oklahoma be more aggressive in promoting and rewarding healthy choices. At the same time, there is no substitute for insurance coverage, regardless of an individual’s overall health. Oklahoma can do better to hold up its end of the health partnership.


Paul Shinn

Paul Shinn served as Budget and Tax Senior Policy Analyst with OK Policy from May 2019 until December 2021. Before joining OK Policy, Shinn held budget and finance positions for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, the Department of Human Services, the cities of Oklahoma City and Del City and several local governments in his native Oregon. He also taught political science and public administration at the University of Oklahoma, University of Central Oklahoma, and California State University Stanislaus. While with the Government Finance Officers Association, Paul worked on consulting and research projects for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and several state agencies and local governments. He also served as policy analyst for CAP Tulsa. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from University of Oklahoma and degrees from the University of Oregon and the University of Maryland College Park. He lives in Oklahoma City with his wife Carmelita.

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