Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin announced Friday (Sept. 6) that state officials negotiated a one year extension for the Insure Oklahoma program.
The program provides health insurance for nearly 30,000 working, low-income Oklahomans. It is funded by the state’s tobacco tax matched with federal dollars. Earlier this year, the federal government announced it would not continue its support of Insure Oklahoma and the state should expect the program to expire at the beginning of 2014.
After the announcement that Insure Oklahoma would expire, Fallin directly contacted President Obama and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius to underscore the importance of the program to the state. Officials with the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, at the governor’s direction, also spent months in negotiations with their federal counterparts. These negotiations have been successful, as an extension has now been agreed to.
“This is a big win for Oklahoma and the tens of thousands of adults and children who currently buy health insurance through Insure Oklahoma,” Fallin said in a statement. “These Oklahomans and their families can now rest easy knowing that they won’t lose their insurance on January 1.”
Insure Oklahoma also serves approximately 4,600 small businesses, which rely on it for assistance in providing employer-sponsored insurance. Fallin said the program has proven to be successful.
“Insure Oklahoma has been around since 2005. It’s been a success for thousands of small businesses that have used it to help their employees purchase insurance,” said Fallin. “It’s been a success for tens of thousands of families of modest means, who would be uninsured without it. It’s also been the beneficiary of popular support; the people of Oklahoma even voted on a 2004 ballot initiative to fund it through tobacco taxes.”
Continuing, Fallin said it “does not make sense to undercut a program that has been working so well and helping so many Oklahomans and small businesses.”
“Moving forward, I strongly encourage our federal partners to review Insure Oklahoma’s many successes and announce their support for a permanent, ongoing program.”
The employer-sponsored insurance (ESI) component of Insure Oklahoma is a premium assistance program for the purchase of private market health insurance policies. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority sponsors 60% of the premium, participating employers pay at least 25% of the qualified employee’s monthly premiums, the employee pays no more than 15% of their health premium. The program also assists with premiums for the employee’s spouse.
Link here for more information about the program.