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Oklahoma State Senate

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For Immediate Release: April 8, 2008

Sen. Andrew Rice
Sen. Andrew Rice

Rice Veterans Insurance Plan Blocked by Rep. Peterson

In spite of overwhelming, bipartisan support in the State Senate, a plan to create a state Veterans Health Insurance Program appears dead in the Oklahoma House, its Senate author, State Sen. Andrew Rice, D-OKC, said today.

Rice said that Rep. Ron Peterson, R-Broken Arrow, Chairman of the House Economic Development and Financial Services Committee, has informed veterans groups that he will not allow the bill to be heard.

“I’m extremely disappointed that Chairman Peterson is single-handedly attempting to kill a plan to allow health care access for every Oklahoma veteran,” Rice said. “With 45 votes, we had a strong spirit of bipartisan cooperation in the Senate but I can only conclude that bipartisan support and the welfare of our veterans has no meaning to the House Republican leadership.”

Rice’s plan to create a state Veterans Health Insurance Program that provides coverage to uninsured Oklahoma veterans below age 65 would fill 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.

The bill’s House author, Representative Ray McCarter, a Democrat from Marlow, said it is a travesty the veteran’s health care insurance bill is being denied a fair hearing in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

“The men and women of Oklahoma who have defended the values of America, who have fought for democracy and freedom around the world deserve quality health care,” said McCarter, who is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and fought in the Viet Nam war. “This is really a matter of respect and dignity. Soldiers that have made the ultimate sacrifices for America should not be denied access to health care. The Republican leadership in the House is playing a dangerous game with the lives of living and breathing Oklahoma heroes. Our veterans deserve more.”

“It is not right that we have one veteran, much less thousands, who have sacrificed for their country yet have no access to health care once they return to private life,” said Col. (Ret.) Katherine Scheirman, M.D., Treasurer of the Oklahoma Democratic Party Veterans Committee. “We appreciate Senator Rice’s efforts and have encouraged him to keep fighting for us.

Rice said he was confident that his bill would easily pass the House of Representatives if it were allowed on the floor for consideration.

Rice’s bill creates a 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. Several states have already taken steps to qualify uninsured veterans for a state insurance program. Under the Oklahoma program adopted by a 45-1 vote in the State Senate, veterans will be required to pay premiums and co-payments based on their household income. Veterans can lose eligibility if they don’t make timely payment of their premiums or if they live in a nursing home or inmate correctional facility;

Nationally, almost two-thirds of uninsured veterans are employed and nearly nine in ten worked within the past year, according to a Harvard University study.

“I believe every veteran has earned the right to qualify for some form of health insurance,” Rice said. “None of these veterans who are without health insurance, entered their military service by asking what was in it for them.”

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

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