For Immediate Release:
March 3, 2008
Sen. Andrew Rice
Rice Plan to Help Uninsured Veterans Gets
Bipartisan Boost from Senate
The Oklahoma State Senate today overwhelmingly approved a plan
by Sen. Andrew Rice (D-OKC) to create a state Veterans Health Insurance
Program that provides coverage to uninsured Oklahoma veterans below
By a convincing 45-1 vote, the Senate action leaves the State
House of Representatives as the next obstacle to positioning Oklahoma
among a growing group of states who are filling a void left when
veterans return to civilian life and can’t afford private
health insurance, yet earn too much to qualify for free or means-tested
health care through the Veterans Administration.
“I thank my Democratic and Republican colleagues in the
Senate for showing their strong support of this important program
today,” Rice said. “I hope the House of Representatives
will act with the same bipartisan support for our veterans. I believe
every veteran has earned the right to qualify for some form of health
Rice’s bill creates a state-run Health Insurance Program
that would require veterans to pay premiums and co-payments based
on their household income. Insurance coverage would become effective
for eligible veterans beginning July 1, 2009.
“For those who believe that our state cannot afford to help
our uninsured veterans, I ask them to examine the unfairness in
their belief,” Rice said. “I don’t think any of
these veterans, when they were ordered into battle, looked at their
commander and said: ‘how much is it going to cost me?’.”
Rice was joined earlier today at the State Capitol by several
Oklahoma veterans who have spoken out in support of the state insurance
program for veterans.
“There is a huge misconception that all veterans automatically
get V.A. benefits,” said Jim Kiper, a Vietnam War veteran
from Oklahoma City. “The influx of new war veterans (from
Iraq and Afghanistan) is overwhelming the system and Oklahoma needs
to step forward.”
Based on estimates included in a Harvard Medical School study,
approximately one in eight veterans are uninsured. If that is true
in Oklahoma, the number of uninsured veterans in the state would
be approximately 27,000.
Jack Scroggins, a Korean War veteran from Muskogee, said the Muskogee
American Legion is overwhelmed by the number of veterans looking
“Many of them don’t know where to turn,” Scroggins
said. “Any legislation that helps our veterans is appreciated.”
During today’s Senate session, Senator Rice noted that Oklahomans
have historically taken great pride in the state’s overall
contribution to America’s military readiness.
“We owe our veterans the opportunity to recuperate and reshape
their lives when they return to civilian life,” Rice said.
“This cannot happen without access to affordable medical care.”
Since veterans of World War II and the Korean War have reached
age 65 and are eligible for Medicare, most uninsured veterans fought
in Vietnam or the Persian Gulf. Nationally, almost two-thirds of
uninsured veterans are employed and nearly nine in ten have worked
within the past year, according to the Harvard Med School study.
For more information contact:
Senator Rice's Office: (405) 521-5610