August 8, 2013

OHA seeks to educate residents on Obamacare

The Express-Star

CHICKASHA — The words Affordable Care Act (ACA), or as it is more commonly referred, Obamacare, are rarely uttered in largely Republican states without eliciting some sort of angry reaction.

That's why the Oklahoma Hospital Association (OHA), in conduction with CMA Strategies consultants, has launched a campaign to reach out to businesses and individuals about why the state legislature needs to try and work within the ACA, regardless political orientation.

Part of this is pointing out that Grady Memorial Hospital would not only be $10 million in the hole on the current track, but they would miss out on $18 million if the state does not accept federal funds as part of the ACA deal.

"We are not here to convince you that the Affordable Care Act is a completely beautiful thing or totally bad thing," Patti Davis, the OHA Executive Vice President, told a small audience at Grady Memorial Hospital Tuesday. "But, it is the law of the land."

OHA has put together a package detailing how the state currently stands on healthcare in relation to the ACA and its representatives are attempting to educate business owners, local politicians, or even just the average citizen about what needs to be done if thousands of state citizens are to be adequately covered for healthcare. They've also gone one step further by illustrating what local employers will face in the current Oklahoma healthcare environment, which includes the end of the state-federal matching healthcare program Insure Oklahoma since state lawmakers won't make changes to the program to match federal regulations.

Currently, according to OHA statistics, 21,000 uninsured Oklahomans will be eligible to enter federal healthcare exchanges, since the state government refused to set up their own exchange. Between Oct. 1 of this year and Jan. 1 when Obamacare begins to take effect, individuals can sign up for these exchanges and become eligible to receive subsidized health insurance.

However, a remaining 9,000 will remain uninsured because their individual incomes are less that 133 percent of the federal poverty line, which is $20,123 for a family of two. This includes 2,251 in Grady County.

Plus, when Insure Oklahoma ends, that will affect 83 individuals, 44 employees and 78 businesses in the county.

"Not accepting these federal funds is not going to be helpful to the businesses in the community," Smith said.

By accepting federal funds and making the necessary changes to Insure Oklahoma, Smith said the thousands of people left uninsured would be able to receive adequate health coverage.

"We have a perfectly good vehicle with Insure Oklahoma to carry this out," she said. "And, it would be an Oklahoma solution."

When the last legislative session ended, no deals were struck on how to handle Insure Oklahoma beyond its expiration date. Smith said she is optimistic that Gov. Mary Fallin is currently discussing how to handle the situation and the matter is expected to come up early in the next legislative session when there is still time to do something about uninsured Oklahomans. It is also expected to come up in a special session held later this fall.

"They could come back in at the beginning of the next session and do that," Smith said. "But, in the interim, it's a matter of how we can improve the education to the business community and elevate the urgency of this conversation."

In addition to meeting with a small gathering on Tuesday, Smith and Ketchum urged business owners and citizens to go to, the A Plan for Oklahoma Facebook page, Twitter page and Youtube page.