oklahoma guide to health insurance

Or call toll-free
1-877-809-0501

Oklahoma health insurance exchange

73,000 enrolled in OK exchange; 2 new carriers join exchange

Share this:
  • By
  • healthinsurance.org contributor
  • October 17, 2014

Subsidies still available

Oklahoma has been in the news recently because of a court ruling on the Oklahoma v. Burwell lawsuit over the legality of subsidies in states with a federally-run exchange.  Oklahoma has a federally-run exchange, and it was the state’s Attorney General, Scott Pruitt, who initiated the lawsuit.  In late September, a federal judge in Oklahoma ruled that subsidies cannot be issued by exchanges that are run by the federal government, but can only be issued in the 17 states where the state is running the exchange.

Despite this ruling, subsidies are still available in the federally-run Oklahoma exchange, and this will still be the case when open enrollment begins on November 15.  There is still a long way to go in this legal battle, and it’s likely that the courts will ultimately decide that the subsidies are legal nationwide, regardless of whether the state or HHS is running the exchange.  But even if that is not the case, there is a federal statute that would prevent any future ruling from impacting subsidies that are currently being provided.  So you do not need to worry that your 2014 subsidy will have to be paid back if the courts rule against subsidies in the federally-run exchange.

2015 rates and carriers

Open enrollment begins on November 15, for coverage effective January 1, 2015.  In the HHS-run Oklahoma exchange, six carriers will be offering plans for 2015, up from four this year.  Plans will be available from Coventry, Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, and Time, as well as newcomers GlobalHealth and CommunityCare. Four carriers will be offering dental plans on the exchange:  Best Life, Dentegra, Delta Dental, and Guardian.

Across the four existing exchange carriers, premium changes range from a decrease of 9.1 percent to an increase of 29 percent.  The weighted average is a 12.2 percent rate increase (as calculated by ACAsignups.net).  But the addition of two new carriers should introduce a greater level of competition and hold premiums in check in 2016.

How many people have enrolled?

69,221 people in Oklahoma had finalized their private plan enrollment in the state’s exchange by April 19 – more than double the number who had done so by March 1. The vast majority (about 60,000) of the private plans were sold by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, and the carrier reported that another 25,000 people purchased their ACA-compliant plans off-exchange.

Obamacare enrollment has continued since April, due to qualifying events that trigger special enrollment periods; HHS will release official total enrollment numbers again in November.  But when 2015 rates were announced in early September, the data included a mention of the fact that 73,071 people were currently covered under private plans through the Oklahoma exchange at HealthCare.gov.  That’s an increase of nearly four thousand people over the summer, even after accounting for attrition.

According to a Gallup poll released in August, Oklahoma’s uninsured rate was 21.4 percent in 2013, and had fallen to 17.5 percent by mid-2014.

Oklahoma was already allowing insurers to renew existing pre-ACA policies into 2014 prior to President Obama’s announcement in mid-November that states and carriers could renew – rather than terminate – plans that were not ACA compliant for another year. So the state has largely avoided widespread cancellations in the individual and small business markets.

Medicaid and Insure Oklahoma

By mid-April, 17,374 applicants were eligible for Medicaid or CHIP under existing rules (they were already eligible pre-2014, but not enrolled). Oklahoma is not participating in Medicaid expansion at this time. Instead, in early September 2013, the state negotiated with the federal government to get a one year extension for the Insure Oklahoma program. The state received a second extension in June, 2014 that will keep Insure Oklahoma functional throughout 2015.

Insure Oklahoma subsidizes private health insurance for low income residents (up to 100 percent of poverty level – this is a decrease from the previous 200 percent limit that was in place prior to 2014), using tobacco taxes matched with federal funds that were scheduled to expire at the end of 2013 to make way for Medicaid expansion. The program will now continue to receive federal funds through 2015, but as of May 2014 it covers about 19,000 of the 30,000 people who were enrolled a year earlier, since Insure Oklahoma members with incomes above 100 percent of poverty have been able to transition to the federally-run Oklahoma exchange instead (roughly 225,000 residents in Oklahoma would have benefited from the expansion of Medicaid).

Despite the fact that Oklahoma has not expanded Medicaid, the state’s program is facing a budget shortfall and in early July announced a 7.75 percent cut in Medicaid reimbursement rates for providers, which will result in a $48 million savings for the state, but leaves providers facing reduced payments, even as they provide healthcare for more than 17,000 new enrollees in the state’s Medicaid program.

Political leadership’s opposition to the ACA

Gov. Mary Fallin announced in November 2012 that Oklahoma would not implement a state-run health insurance exchange. In the same press release, Fallin expressed her support for a lawsuit brought by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt. The suit contends the federal government cannot enforce the employer mandate or dispense tax subsidies in a state that has not authorized an exchange.

On August 12, 2013, a federal judge denied the federal government’s motion to dismiss the case, and then on September 30, 2014, a federal judge sided with Pruitt and ruled that subsidies could not go to people in states with exchanges run by HHS.  Similar cases were heard in other courts in the summer of 2014, and this issue is likely to eventually end up before the Supreme Court.

In addition to the lawsuit, on November 6 Pruitt joined AGs from nine other states in petitioning HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to support “immediate legislative action” to correct various aspects of the ACA’s implementation. And in February 2014, Republican Rep. Jon Echols introduced HB3364, which would provide a state tax credit to offset any shared responsibility penalties (individual mandate) incurred by Oklahoma residents. The bill did not proceed any further than introduction however.

Not surprisingly, a study released in late January found that Oklahoma was one of just five states that were “diehard hold outs” with regards to the ACA – doing nothing at all to help implement the law.

The road to a federally-run exchange

The Fallin administration state officials initially showed some openness to a state-run exchange — if only as a slightly less distasteful option than a federally operated exchange. The Oklahoma Joint Committee on Federal Health Care Law studied exchange options and issued its final recommendations in February 2012. The committee supported a state-run exchange open to small businesses, but not individuals. A bill for this type of exchange, which is similar to Utah’s exchange, was introduced but not passed in 2012.

In line with state leaders’ opposition to the ACA, Oklahoma is not actively marketing the exchange to residents. However, three state organizations have received grants to act as navigators: Cardon Outreach in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Community Health Centers, Inc., and Little Dixie Community Action Agency, Inc.

HHS is running the exchange in Oklahoma. You can compare plan, determine subsidy eligibility and enroll in coverage at Healthcare.gov.

Oklahoma health insurance exchange links

HealthCare.gov
800-318-2596

State Exchange Profile: Oklahoma
The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation overview of Oklahoma’s progress toward creating a state health insurance exchange.

Oklahoma Insurance Department
Assists people insured by private health plans, Medicaid, or other plans in resolving problems pertaining to their health coverage; assists uninsured residents with access to care. (405) 521-2991 / Toll Free in OK: (800) 522-0071 / ombudsman@oid.ok.gov