(For what it’s worth and coming from a liberal this might not do her any political good here, I think Fallin made the absolutely right decision to push for health-care exchanges, and Oklahomans of both major political parties and everyone else should get behind her on this issue.)
Some Oklahoma Republicans are criticizing Gov. Mary Fallin for at least implicitly supporting a portion of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), but what if “Obamacare”-the clichéd, hyperbolic term the GOP here has rallied around in its electoral detest for the president-is actually a good thing for the state?
Wayne Greene, a senior writer for the Tulsa World, noted Wednesday that Fallin has written a letter to legislators throwing her support behind a bill that would help create “health-care exchanges” under ACA. I wrote earlier about Fallin’s support for accepting a $54.6 million federal grant to help create exchanges, which “are designed to help people and businesses find affordable health insurance plans by pooling together . . .”
As Fallin herself said:
That exchange will empower consumers and help individuals and small businesses to shop for and enroll in affordable, quality health insurance plans. This is a step in the right direction for Oklahoma and its citizens.
But now some GOP legislators-how many is the real question here-are speaking out against her supposed support for Obamacare. After all, Fallin has endorsed Oklahoma’s lawsuit against ACA, arguing it’s unconstitutional. She voted against it when serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. She also used her opposition to ACA as a campaign issue, rallying the GOP base here around anti-Obama political rhetoric.
State Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, according to Greene, had this to say about Fallin and health-care exchanges:
It’s the first step of Obamacare. You just can’t think that the federal government is going to give you money and not have any strings attached.
Is it the first step of basically somewhat better but not the greatest health care in Oklahoma or the first step of [blank] . . . ? Fill in the blank yourself: socialism, fascism, Marxism, the end of democracy, loss of freedom and no decent future for any grandchildren ever for the rest of mankind. (Feel free to add your own terminology.)
Meanwhile, David Blatt, the director of Oklahoma Policy Institute, a state think tank that offers excellent Oklahoma budget analysis, posted a blog on the organization’s site that points out it’s the one-year anniversary of ACA. Blatt, using information from Families USA, points out:
Over 50,000 uninsured Oklahomans under the age of 26 are now eligible to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans;
Some 50,000 Oklahoma Medicare recipients received a $250 rebate check in 2010 to help plug the “doughnut hole” in prescription drug coverage. In 2011, those who reach the doughnut hole will receive a 50 percent discount on brand-name drugs and will be eligible for reduced-price generic drugs;
Nearly 600,000 Oklahoma seniors and persons with disabilities on Medicare now enjoy access to free preventive services, such as mammograms, colonoscopies and flu shots, along with a free annual wellness visit;
Over 65,000 Oklahoma children with pre-existing health conditions can no longer be denied coverage by their insurance company;
Some 50,000 Oklahoma small businesses with 25 or fewer employees and an average wage of less than $50,000 are now eligible for tax credits to help cover up to 35 percent of the cost of health insurance premiums for their employees.
Don’t skip over these numbers, especially in the first paragraph, not that the other information is not as vitally important. The fact that 50,000 young adults here could have better access to health care in this state by a simple insurance rule change, the costs of which are minimal or nothing or even profitable to private industry, is a vivid example of ACA’s common sense and pragmatic approach. I just don’t see the communist threat looming around young adults getting adequate health insurance paid by their parents, but then I’m a college professor, and I want my students (and other young adults, of course) to be healthy. Is that bias or am I trying to take away freedom under a plot to undermine American democracy?
Even the conservative Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs has published an article that argues, “health insurance exchanges are not the optimal health policy that will fundamentally change our broken healthcare system, but they are certainly an important tool in the toolkit.”
The Oklahoma Publishing Company, which publishes The Oklahoman, one of the most conservative newspapers in the country, even takes advantage of ACA through an early retiree insurance program.
The mandate to require everyone to have health insurance in the future is a contentious issue, but it’s a debate that needs to happen. Obama has clearly indicated he’s ready to consider other health-care reform ideas, push back time frames for applying all the ACA requirements and debate what needs to happen to improve federal health-care reform.
For what it’s worth and coming from a liberal this might not do her any political good, I think Fallin made the absolutely right decision to push for health-care exchanges, and Oklahomans of both major political parties and everyone else should get behind her on this issue.