Obamacare a Tough Sell in Oklahoma

Monday, 30 Jul 2012 11:18 AM

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The individual mandate at the center of President Barack Obama’s healthare law is going to be a tough sell in Oklahoma, a conservative state with a distrust of government.

The state can’t even convince its citizens to get car insurance, The Washington Post reported.

About a quarter of Oklahoma drivers have no insurance, one of the highest rates in the country, and the state is unlikely to do much to promote Obamacare. Gov. Mary Fallin turned down $54 million in federal funds to plan for the law.

Mark Cunningham, 64, having breakfast at Oklahoma City’s Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, remarking on the car-insurance rates, told the Post, “I suspect they’re going to run into the same kind of trouble on health insurance.”

Healthcare advocates, however, believe they can change the dynamic.

“People may have heard about ‘Obamacare’ this and ‘Obamacare’ that,"
said Ron Pollack a board member of Enroll America, "and they may have even succumbed to some of the myths . . . but once people see the impact it can have on their lives, all of that is going to change tremendously.”

Enroll America, a nonprofit group, plans a major public relations campaign to promote the insurance mandate that, beginning in 2014, will require most Americans to have health insurance or be fined.

Oklahomans, though, may not be so easy to get on board.

“If we’re not being cooperative and all the rhetoric is hostile, then that’s going to be a real barrier to providing information to people,” David Blatt, director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a state policy think tank, told the Post. “There’s a lot of important outreach that needs to happen before Jan. 1, 2014, and it’s going to be extremely difficult to do that when you have state leaders standing there saying, ‘Over our dead bodies.’ ”

Under Oklahoma law, drivers must have auto insurance, but 20 percent to 30 percent do not, despite penalties that include a $230 fine and suspension of drivers’ licenses. Under Obamacare, the penalty for not having insurance starts at $95, the Post reported.

“There’s a sense in Oklahoma, and I’m not sure if this is peculiar to this state, but we don’t like people telling us what to do,” AAA Oklahoma spokesman Chuck Mai told the Post.

“We know what we should do," he said. "We should buckle our safety belt every time we drive. We should drive sober. And we should have insurance on our vehicle. But having our law telling you to do those things sometimes has an adverse effect.”

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