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Oklahoma State Senate
Communications Division
State Capitol
Oklahoma City, OK 73105

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For Immediate Release: February 20, 2008

Senator Andrew Rice
Sen. Andrew Rice

Rice Plan for Veterans Health Insurance Passes Senate Appropriations Committee

Legislation authored by State Senator Andrew Rice (D-OKC) that would create the Oklahoma Veterans’ Health Insurance Program passed the State Senate Appropriations Committee by a 10-6 vote today.

Rice thanked the bipartisan majority of committee members who supported his plan to offer health insurance to those Oklahoma veterans who don’t qualify for federal government subsidized insurance and can’t afford private health insurance.

“By clearing this bill for consideration by the full Senate, the committee sent a signal to Oklahoma veterans today that our state will not leave any one of them behind,” Rice said.  “Many people think that all veterans qualify for free health care through the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department but that’s not true.”

Rice said free health care is available only to low income veterans who qualify for Medicaid or means-tested Veterans health insurance.  Several veterans groups have endorsed his plan.

"Senator Rice should be applauded for his effort in securing insurance for veterans," said Dr. Katherine Sherman, a retired Air Force Colonel and medical doctor. “Even in a tight budget year, Oklahoma must take care of the veterans who can’t afford to get insurance any other way. We ask too much of the men and women in uniform to leave them uninsured and unprotected.”

Rice responded to numerous questions during this morning’s Committee hearing.  He said the insurance program will not be free.  Veterans will be required to pay premiums and co-payments based on their household income. 

"These are veterans who fall through the cracks…too poor to afford private coverage but not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid or means-tested VA care,” Rice said.  “I believe every American military veteran has earned the right to qualify for some form of health insurance.”

Rice said that in lieu of a federal initiative making all veterans eligible for health care benefits, states like Oklahoma have the opportunity to take care of their own.

“Our state has traditionally been among the nation’s leading states in number of troops deployed around the world,” Rice said.  “As citizens, we can show our appreciation by taking care of them when they return home.”

For more information contact:
Senator Rice's Office: (405) 521-5610

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