BY JOE DORMAN
I have been contacted by several constituents who have concerns about what will happen with several health programs, including insurance coverage, offered by the State of Oklahoma. There is a great fear that Insure Oklahoma, a program administered by the state, will cease to exist due to provisions of federal healthcare guidelines. With the refusal to take funds offered by the federal government for providing health care and insurance for many underprivileged citizens, the state is at great risk of placing many Oklahomans without coverage. This will drive up visits to emergency rooms and will place our rural hospitals in danger of closing their doors. I called upon the legislature to take action last November to review the opportunities presented in creating a health care exchange, but unfortunately the leadership at the state capitol instead chose to ignore the issue completely. Much like ignoring an illness, this will likely result in further problems as procrastination occurs by elected officials.
With a need for assistance, many have reached out to our capitol offices in need of advice on what to do so as to not lose their health care. The first suggestion I would have for those who are seeking health care with no access to insurance is to seek assistance at one of our many rural health clinics. While these clinics are not usually free, they are established to work with patients to develop payment plans which are affordable for the patients. Some of these programs do receive federal assistance, but others rely on donations from those who are able to give to provide health opportunities for those in need. You can see a list of 154 of these clinics located in Oklahoma and choose the one closest to you at: http://www.needymeds.org/free_clinics.taf?_function=list&state=ok
I also highly recommend you contact your local Community Action Agency for advice on how to handle specific concerns. These groups help with Head Start and other community programs in many towns around the state and help people get back on their feet by working with them to overcome obstacles. These agencies help persons find affordable places to live, provide tax assistance and financial literacy programs, assist with low-cost prescription medicines through the RX for Oklahoma initiative, support congregate meal sites for senior citizens and provide job training, among many other duties. You can reach your local agency at the following number:
Caddo and Grady Counties – Washita Valley Community Action Council – (405) 224-5831
Comanche County – Great Plains Improvement Foundation – (580) 353-2364
Cotton County – Community Action Development Corporation – (580) 335-5588
Stephens County – Delta Community Action Foundation – (405) 756-1100
I specifically encourage you to contact these agencies should you need assistance with affordable prescriptions. This and many of these other programs are subsidized with state appropriations provided by the legislature, but the dollars allocated have not increased in recent years. These programs certainly could use assistance from those willing and able to help our friends and neighbors who are struggling to get back on their feet, so check them out if you have an interest or desire to help.
Finally, should you forget this information; the state has helped establish a hotline for Oklahomans to call for suggestions and advice with many of these issues. Simply dial 211 on your phone and you will reach an operator willing to assist you with whatever issue you face in regards to programs willing to aid those in need. I am proud of how Oklahoma has stepped up as a state to offer many of these programs to assist those in need of a hand up, rather than a continuous handout, but I feel the state must work with the federal government to come up with a workable solution to address the needs we face. Playing political games and refusing to work together does no one any good, especially when it comes to the health and well-being of our state.