OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Gov. Brad Henry signed a pair of bills Monday designed to reduce the number of uninsured Oklahomans by increasing Medicaid eligibility for children and expanding a small business health insurance program.
Dubbed the “All Kids Act,” Senate Bill 424 would increase Medicaid eligibility for children from 185 percent of the federal poverty level to 300 percent, a change expected to provide coverage for as many as 42,000 additional children, according to projections from the governor's office.
For a family of four, 185 percent of the poverty level in 2006 equaled a household income of about $37,000, while the change would make a family of four with a household income of about $60,000 eligible for participation, said Nico Gomez, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.
Oklahoma ranks sixth in the nation in the percentage of children without health insurance, according to a 2005-2006 study by the Kaiser Foundation, a California-based nonprofit group that focuses on health care issues.
State Rep. Doug Cox, an emergency room physician from Grove, said 34 percent of the patients who visit the Integris Grove General Hospital have no insurance of any kind and that about 29 percent never pay any of their bill.
“The cost of caring for them will be cost-shifted to those of us who have insurance or pay cash,” Cox said. “The majority of these patients are hard working Oklahomans but have jobs with no health insurance benefits and in a pay scale range that does not allow them to purchase health insurance and still support their families.”
Another bill Henry signed Monday targets working Oklahomans by expanding Insure Oklahoma, a program that helps small businesses provide health insurance for their employees.
Under House bill 1225, the bill would expand eligibility in the program from businesses with 50 employees to those with 250 or fewer workers. Under the program, the state pays 60 percent of the insurance costs, the employer pays 25 percent and the employee pays the remaining 15 percent.
The bill also would expand eligibility in the program to workers who earn 185 percent of the federal poverty level to a 250-percent threshold, a change Henry should greatly increase the number of participants in the program.