News that all five of Oklahoma’s U.S. House of Representatives members will vote to repeal the new health care law-including Democrat Dan Boren-is no surprise, but it doesn’t mean what they’re doing is in the best interests of the state.
The repeal vote, schedule for Wednesday, is certain to pass the House, but has little chance in the Senate. President Barack Obama would veto any repeal bill that came his way. The vote tomorrow is only symbolic.
The state’s House members are sure to claim their constituents oppose the new health, but the reality is right-wing politicians and their media apparatus made the new law a part of their scare tactics in the 2010 election. The right-wing created the anti-health care reform hysteria-U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, a physician, was a major factor in doing so in Oklahoma-and then claimed it was some type of populist uprising against government overreach. No, it was calculating GOP operatives and leaders like Coburn pushing the agenda of big business and manipulating people in a state with poor medical outcomes and access.
The local House members would be hard pressed to find anyone in Oklahoma who can claim to be actually hurt by the new law. Why doesn’t Boren or, say, U.S. Rep. Tom Cole produce their constituents who can show how the law has hurt them specifically beyond bizarre charges of “socialism” or government intrusion? Is it the new rule making it more difficult for insurance companies to deny policies based on pre-existing conditions? Is it the new rule allowing children to stay on their parents’ policies until they’re 26? These are terrible acts of socialism, right?
The bottom line is that Oklahoma ranks in the bottom of the nation in health rankings and, of all places, it should embrace attempts to repair a health care system that is inhumane and costly
Before the Affordable Care Act was passed, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathryn Sebelius released this information about health care in Oklahoma.
Roughly 1.9 million people in Oklahoma get health insurance on the job, where family premiums average $12,256, about the annual earning of a full-time minimum wage job.
Since 2000 alone, average family premiums have increased by 77 percent in Oklahoma.
Household budgets are strained by high costs: 29 percent of middle-income Oklahoma families spend more than 10 percent of their income on health care.
High costs block access to care: 17 percent of people in Oklahoma report not visiting a doctor due to high costs.
Oklahoma businesses and families shoulder a hidden health tax of roughly $1,900 per year on premiums as a direct result of subsidizing the costs of the uninsured.
19 percent of people in Oklahoma are uninsured, and 70 percent of them are in families with at least one full-time worker.
The percent of Oklahomans with employer coverage is declining: 54 percent were covered in 2007.
While small businesses make up 78 percent of Oklahoma businesses, only 39 percent of them offered health coverage benefits in 2006.
Choice of health insurance is limited in Oklahoma. BCBS OK alone constitutes 45 percent of the health insurance market share in Oklahoma, with the top two insurance providers accounting for 71 percent.
Choice is even more limited for people with pre-existing conditions. In Oklahoma, premiums can vary based on demographic factors and health status, and coverage can exclude pre-existing conditions or even be denied completely.
The overall quality of care in Oklahoma is rated as “Weak.”
16 percent of children in Oklahoma are obese.
28 percent of women over the age of 50 in Oklahoma have not received a mammogram in the past two years.
45 percent of men over the age of 50 in Oklahoma have never had a colorectal cancer screening.
76 percent of adults over the age of 65 in Oklahoma have received a flu vaccine in the past year.
This is the type of information Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation will not acknowledge in the debate over health care in this country. If the health care law were repealed, medical outcomes here would only get worse.
Here’s another fact: The American Medical Association claims Oklahoma has the lowest doctor-to-patient ratio among the states. The impact of this on health care in the state is immeasurable. Why doesn’t the state’s U.S. House members focus on this problem? Why don’t they make this a pressing issue?
The Oklahoman, the GOP-propaganda ministry here in the state, continues to oppose health care reform on its editorial page even as its parent company enjoys its benefits. The Oklahoma Publishing Company (OPUBCO) has participated in an early retiree insurance program created by the by the new law. As I wrote earlier, “… how many state residents remain without health insurance or adequate health care access as OPUBCO reaps benefits and fights against reform?”
In the end, Oklahoma’s five U.S. House members, no matter how they spin it, will be voting against the interests of the vast majority of the state’s residents on Wednesday.