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Tilting at Windmills

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April 15, 2011

OKLAHOMA'S COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE SPITE ON HEALTH CARE .... I can appreciate the fact that far-right activists and lawmakers at the state level, especially in deep "red" states, loathe the Affordable Care Act. I just wish they'd think that opposition through a little better.

Under mounting pressure from local Republican legislators, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin is turning her back on a $54 million health reform grant she once proudly supported.

It is by far the largest health reform grant that any state has rejected. Other states have returned or turned down $1 million exchange planning grants.

Oklahoma "will not accept the $54 million Early Innovator Grant" Fallin announced Thursday afternoon, noting that the move "accomplishes my goal from the very beginning: stopping the implementation of the president's federal health care exchange in Oklahoma."

In this case, Fallin actually wanted the money, and had even taken steps to accept it. HHS had distributed Early Innovator Grants in February, with seven states accepting funds to "build the technology infrastructure that other states would use as a model." The Oklahoma governor, just a few months into her first year in office, was eager for her state to take this leadership role, and actively lobbied for the grant.

But Fallin's Republican colleagues didn't see it that way. To accept the $54 million grant was somehow seen as cooperating with the Obama administration and the health care reform effort. The GOP-led legislature forced her to turn down the funding.

We've seen this before. In Georgia, Montana, and South Carolina, right-wing activists have also rallied to undermine, and even kill, proposals to establish state-based exchanges. As conservatives see it, if they can defeat exchanges in state capitols, they can undermine the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in their area.

But that's not how the law works. If states balk at creating exchanges, as Republicans in Georgia, Montana, and South Carolina demand, then the federal government will create, and possibly manage, exchanges for these states. (Tea Partiers are unwittingly fighting aggressively to expand federal control over health care.)

The Oklahoma case is especially odd -- even GOP officials in the state know they have to create an exchange, but have decided that they'd rather not have a $54 million Early Innovator Grant to put it together. And if they fail to craft an effective exchange that meets the standards of the Affordable Care Act, federal officials will just impose one on them anyway.

Republican opposition to health care reform long ago abandoned reason, but Oklahoma is engaged in self-defeating spite for no reason.

Steve Benen 9:25 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (21)

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North Korea is a News Free Zone- nothing from the outside world penetrates, and the populace thinks their sorry lot is the worldwide norm.

Apparently the GOP hopes for a similar situation in these several states. If not, they will have to build a "Berlin Wall" to keep their people in.

Posted by: DAY on April 15, 2011 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

Ditto with New Mexico. The legislature passed a bill to create the exchange, but the Republican Governor vetoed it.

There will be another bite at the apple in September, when the legislature convenes again at the Roundhouse to consider redistricting. That is, IF the Governor allows the HIE on the agenda.

Alternatively, the legislature is able to call itself into special session, something that was done only once in the state's 99 year history - under another intransigent Republican governor, of course. I hear he's running for President...

Posted by: zandru on April 15, 2011 at 9:30 AM | PERMALINK

This is a form of 'Secession' I can support. Let the peckerwoods in the Red States refuse all this tainted money, it's a fact that these states receive more than one federal dollar for every buck they pay in, and the rest of us can stop carrying these parasites. This isn't a problem, it's a solution.

Posted by: BillFromPA on April 15, 2011 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

This is what happens when the Democratic party abandons entire regions. Not that the Democrats would ever win large sections of Oklahoma, but putting up a fight would require the local media to air both sides. Oklahoma truly is a fact free zone.

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 15, 2011 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

Here's some advice to 49 states: see what the South Carolina legislature, or the SC governor Nikki Haley does - then do the opposite and you'll probably be doing the right thing (and not the right-wing thing).

Posted by: MuddyLee on April 15, 2011 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

From a layman's perspective: It seems these Republican officials, many recently elected to both state and federal offices, are not so much working on behalf of their constituents to improve the lives of those they have been sent to represent, as they are working against the first duly elected president of African descent in order to make him a one-term president.

End of relevant, up-to-date observation!

Oh, and Republicans who helped Gov. Fallin scuttle a good, beneficial, cutting-edge, financially viable, constituent benefiting, opportunity to partner with federal funding; prove me wrong! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on April 15, 2011 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

In ten years or so, Republicans have given themselves totally over to becoming howling loons... there doesn't seem to be a decent, intelligent, principled one among the bunch. And yet, people still seriously vote Republican.

Posted by: June on April 15, 2011 at 9:42 AM | PERMALINK

The GOP has turned OK into a major loonie bin. I can't decide which is the nuttier and more pathetic state with the dumbest most ignorant republican representation, AZ or OK.

Posted by: Silver Owl on April 15, 2011 at 9:46 AM | PERMALINK

This is the hazard inherent in making a religious crusade out of a political party. Not only are you endowed with righteous certitude about everything, anything the other religion does is satanic. What does every faction inside the GOP have in common? This belief-based certitude. It hardly even matters if they contradict themselves from one moment to the next. They are by their very existence God's Army and relieved of making sense in this darkness we call the real world.

Posted by: walt on April 15, 2011 at 9:49 AM | PERMALINK

As always there are details missed in the media summaries. There was a vague reference to setting up the state exchange with help from "private funds".

Oklahoma has a couple of small to midsized insurance companies headquartered here and Koch is headquartered 30 miles North in Wichita. Texas would be unmanageable but Oklahoma is small enough, Red enough and certainly corrupt enough that the Reichwingers may want to play games with Obama's offer to let the states create their own health care systems that match ACA.

That means Oklahoma could end up with a Potemkin heath insurance system that will be litigated for years.

Posted by: OKDem on April 15, 2011 at 9:50 AM | PERMALINK

Good. Let the money that Oklahoma and other red states refuses to take get spent elsewhere in the country, where the need is equally great.

I hate to take this position, since we ARE stilln one nation and there are plenty of people in places like Oklahoma who desperately need help--but maybe such drastic medicine is what's called for.

I was hoping, for example, that Lindsey Graham's Charleston harbor would be left without its pork-barrel spending and the money go to its next-door rival, Savannah--which is in a state, by the way, that Obama has an outside chance of carrying in 2012. FDR would have played that kind of game, for sure.

Posted by: James Miller on April 15, 2011 at 9:52 AM | PERMALINK

For all it's problems, I am SO glad I live in California.

Just bring the money here. We've been paying for red states for decades.

Posted by: bdop4 on April 15, 2011 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

"but putting up a fight would require the local media to air both sides. Oklahoma truly is a fact free zone. "


That was a joke, right?

Posted by: SaintZak on April 15, 2011 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

Give it to any state that went from blue to red last November. In fact, give everything for the next year and a half to those states and congressional districts.

Posted by: chi res on April 15, 2011 at 10:04 AM | PERMALINK

Although I'm not sure it rises to the level of deliberate strategy, you can bet that every state where the federal government is forced to set up exchanges will be the site of protests against the socialist takeover and calls for second-amendment remedies.

Posted by: paul on April 15, 2011 at 10:22 AM | PERMALINK

I have to correct Ron Beyers and a general perception of Oklahoma.

The first time the Republicans ever held both chambers of the legislature was 2008. 2010 was the first time ever they held all state offices.

Oklahoma was a solid Democratic state in presidential elections from 1908 to 1952.

In the 1910's and 20's Oklahoma had a large Klan but also the largest Socialist Party in the country. Woody Guthrie did not come out of a vacuum.

Posted by: OKDem on April 15, 2011 at 10:25 AM | PERMALINK

OKDem, how much help does the Oklahoma state Democratic party get from the national party?

Posted by: Ron Byers on April 15, 2011 at 11:10 AM | PERMALINK

Another red state feud between Republicans who can add and subtract and their moronic Tea Bagger fringe. This civil war between the evil and the dumb GOPers is a good thing for the nation.

Posted by: max on April 15, 2011 at 11:17 AM | PERMALINK

Beg your pardon, chi res, but don't you mean "Give it back to any state that went from *red* to *blue* last November."?

After all, if they're *so crazy* with hatred of our President and the federal government that they'll *reject* $$$$, let the money go to some states that will be happy to accept, i.e., those with Democratic governors. :) :)

Posted by: knightphoenix2 on April 15, 2011 at 11:51 AM | PERMALINK

No, meant what I said. We've got to win back the non-crazy purple states in 2012 to have any chance of any more significant progressive accomplishments, i.e., Pres Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and fillibuster-proof Senate.

Rather than hitting 'em with a stick based on 2010, we need to offer a big carrot for 2012.

Posted by: chi res on April 15, 2011 at 12:14 PM | PERMALINK

You have to remember that Oklahoma was founded by Southern white people who were too stupid and incompetent to steal land from the Indians on their own, so they had to wait for the government to do it for them, then criticize it for leaving any for the Indians.

There's a reason why the term "dumb Okie" has been around for as long as it has.

Posted by: TCinLA on April 15, 2011 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK
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