State Senator Tom Adelson said Friday that the federal government’s approval of the Oklahoma Premium Assistance Plan means thousands of currently uninsured Oklahomans will soon have health insurance coverage under what he called the “most innovative public-private partnership in the history of Medicaid.”
“I am delighted with today’s announcement. Approximately 70,000 uninsured working Oklahomans will soon be covered by private health insurance plans that in the past neither they nor their employers could afford,” said Adelson, D-Tulsa. “Oklahoma has taken a giant step toward becoming a healthier state.”
Tulsa has been promised $10 million to begin the program, the Senator said.
Adelson was elected to the Senate in 2004 and serves as the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Sub-Committee on Health and Human Services, the body that oversees Oklahoma’s Medicaid budget.
Under the plan, businesses with 25 or fewer employees will be given a voucher by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority that can be used to help purchase private health insurance for their employees. State dollars and federal Medicaid matching funds will pay 60 percent of the premiums. Employers will pay 25 percent with employees picking up the remaining 15 percent.
The Senator said four insurance carriers have already signed up for the plan and proposals from two others are pending.
“The Premium Assistance Program will make health insurance an affordable benefit for both employers and their employees. Having access to affordable, quality medical care will make workers healthier and more productive. A more productive workforce means a healthier bottom line for small businesses,” Adelson said.
Approximately 700,000 Oklahomans, almost one-fifth of the state’s population, are uninsured. They rarely receive preventative care; often wait until they are the sickest to seek medical attention; and then receive care from the most expensive outlets, hospital emergency rooms.
More than 70 percent of the uninsured in Oklahoma are employed or are the dependents of uninsured workers.
“Faced with alarming increases in the cost of health insurance, this is vital help for working families and small business and could not come at a more important time,” Adelson said.
As Governor Brad Henry’s first Secretary of Health, Adelson worked closely with the governor in developing and promoting the Premium Assistance Program, which won Legislative approval in May 2004. In November 2004, Oklahoma voters agreed to fund the program with a portion of the revenue from an increase in the state tobacco tax.
“I want to congratulate Governor Henry today. His leadership and commitment to passage of both the Premium Assistance Program and the tobacco tax increase have played a crucial role in creating a healthier tomorrow for our state,” Adelson said.