MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

December 12, 2013

Feds: 1,600 Oklahomans enroll through health care site


Associated Press

— OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — More than 1,600 Oklahoma residents successfully signed up for health insurance coverage in the first two months of the troubled HealthCare.gov website that allows people to shop for and purchase a plan, officials said Wednesday.

The report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows 14,875 Oklahomans submitted applications to the new insurance marketplace. They were applying for coverage on behalf of 30,786 people — for example, themselves, their spouses and children.

The 1,327 Oklahomans who successfully enrolled in November was nearly four times the 346 who managed to sign up in October, when the federal website’s launch was plagued with problems. Oklahoma is one of 36 states that relied on the federal website, after Gov. Mary Fallin rejected a state-run marketplace.

“The main thing is that we’ve got the website up and working,” said Chad Austin, who oversees about 60 navigators in Oklahoma who help people use the federal website. “Things have gone a lot smoother.”

Austin said applicants using the website initially were unable to determine if they were eligible for tax subsidies used to offset the cost of insurance.

“The key to success is this past month we’ve been able to go through the website with the eligibility application,” Austin said.

About 640,000 Oklahoma residents, or 17 percent of the state’s population, currently have no health insurance. But the launch of the federal exchange has not been promoted by the state.

Fallin rejected the opportunity to create a state-based exchange or expand Medicaid to tens of thousands of Oklahoma’s working poor, a decision hailed by conservatives in the GOP-controlled Legislature.