The state legislature in Oklahoma lives in a house of straw, one it would “sooner” huff and puff and blow down itself than show any hint of cooperating with the federal government.
State sovereignty can be a strange bird. Health care reform needed to be handled on the federal level because, with the exception of a few like Massachusetts, most states have done a lousy job. One of those states that hasn’t done a great job is Oklahoma, where nearly one out of five citizens has no health insurance.
The state applied for – and was awarded – a $54 million federal grant to help it build an health insurance exchange mechanism to allow its uninsured to compare competing health insurance products from various private companies. The grants are “kick starts” to the statewide health insurance marketplaces that all states are required to have in place by 2013.
Governor Mary Fallin was happy to be awarded the grant: “After thoroughly reviewing the early innovator grant, I am happy to say that the federal assistance we are being offered is consistent with our mission to design and implement an Oklahoma-based health insurance exchange … This is a step in the right direction for Oklahoma and its citizens.”
But then the legislature forced Fallin to turn down the grant, despite the inconvenient fact that the state still has to build an exchange or be forced to participate in a federally run exchange (a fate it was trying to avoid by applying for the grant money in the first place). Now they have to raid their own coffers – or seek contributions from the same insurance companies they should be regulating – to do so.
So it puts Oklahoma in the ridiculous position of refusing the federal help that would provide the state with – wait for it – greater autonomy. I can’t see the logic in refusing the grant. Maybe it was “Backwards Day” in Oklahoma and the joke’s on us. Or maybe they just took a detour to Wackyland.