Oklahoma State Senate
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73105
For Immediate Release: December 30, 2008
Sen. Andrew Rice
Sen. Rice Files Bill to Help Uninsured Veterans
With an estimated one in eight veterans
under age 65 uninsured nationwide, State Senator Andrew
Rice has introduced a bill to ensure that all Oklahoma veterans
have access to adequate health insurance.
"There is a common misconception that all veterans qualify
for free health care through the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department,
but sadly this isn't the case," said Rice, D-Oklahoma City.
"Thousands of vets are falling through the cracks. They make
too much to qualify for Medicaid or means-tested VA care, but are
too poor to afford private coverage."
Senate Bill 59 would expand the Oklahoma Employer/Employee Partnership
for Insurance Coverage Program (O-EPIC), also known as the Insure
Oklahoma program, to include certain qualified veterans. There are
two plans available under the program including Employer Sponsored
Insurance (ESI) and the Individual Plan (IP). Under Rice's legislation,
veterans would be included under the Individual Plan, which
currently provides coverage to more than 5,200 Oklahomans.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as of November
2007, Oklahoma had more than 338,000 veterans and more than 211,000
of those were under 65. Based on a 2007 Harvard University study
which estimated one in eight veterans nationwide under the age of
65 is uninsured, Rice points to the fact that Oklahoma could have
more than 26,000 vets who are uninsured.
"Unfortunately, there is no entity that tracks uninsured vets
so we have no idea of how many are affected, but in my eyes one
is too many given what these individuals have sacrificed and done
for the sake of our country's freedom and that of other people around
the world," said Rice. "There are no words to thank these
brave individuals for their work, but we can help make sure that
they have adequate access to healthcare. It's a small price to pay
compared to all they have done for us."
Like other participants in the Individual Plan, veterans would pay
a portion of their monthly premiums based on their annual household
income. For individuals, this is up to just over $51 and to nearly
$69 for an individual and a spouse.
In order to qualify, a veteran would have to be an Oklahoma resident
between the ages of 19 and 64 with a household income no greater
than the sum of an amount equal to 25 percent of the federal poverty
level or an amount equal to the federal Veterans Health Administration
means test income threshold when entering the program. The person
could not be on active duty or have been dishonorably discharged
from service. The individual would also have had to been uninsured
for at least six months unless the person lost coverage because
his or her military post-active duty benefits expired or the individual
lost his or her employee-sponsored plan due to being laid off or
the employer no longer offered the benefits.
For more information contact:
Senator Rice's Office: (405) 521-5610