McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

January 29, 2013

How the new health care law will affect Okla.

Associated Press

McALESTER — The way Oklahoma residents get health insurance will change this fall as a result of the new federal health care law. The law aims to reduce the number of uninsured by requiring people to get coverage and by setting up online health insurance markets called exchanges where people can look at private insurance options.  Government subsidies will be available for some who can’t afford the premiums. The federal government also is urging states to expand their Medicaid programs for the poor and disabled.

Here is a look at how the new system will affect the state:

Who will run the insurance exchange in Oklahoma?

Oklahoma has decided to allow the federal government to set up the online exchange featuring the coverage plans available in the state.  Some other states are setting up their own exchanges or partnering with federal officials, but Oklahoma chose not to be responsible for the cost.

How many people are uninsured in Oklahoma?

According to state estimates, about 636,000 people, or 20 percent of the population, are uninsured.

How would the expansion of Medicaid affect Oklahoma?

The federal government is pressing states to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income people. About 786,000 people are now covered by the program.  The state estimates that expanding Medicaid under the federal plan would add another 200,000 to the rolls.   Gov. Mary Fallin has rejected the idea, citing the cost.

 The federal government would pay all of the additional costs through 2016, but the state share would gradually increase to 10 percent afterward. 

Fallin has approved a $500,000 contract with a private firm to explore other ways of helping those would have been covered.