| July 31, 2012

Oklahoma: The final frontier for freedom

The Washington Post highlighted Oklahoma in an article yesterday about public disdain toward the Obamacare individual mandate, referring to Oklahoma as the Wild West, where contempt for strong centralized government is most evident. The article cited Oklahoma’s car insurance rate as evidence that the state cannot get Oklahomans to comply with mandates. (On an interesting side note, the article went on to point out that a significant portion of that number comes from Oklahoma’s high illegal immigrant population, begging the question of what the federal government should actually be doing in the first place.)

The Post visited Cattleman’s Steakhouse, where they interviewed local patrons and got a real sense of Oklahoma’s opinion on the idea of the federal government forcing us to buy health insurance. Mark Cunningham, a 64 year-old Army veteran summed up the ideology of Oklahoma when he said, “That kind of frontier mentality maintains in Oklahoma, and it’s not a bad thing. It’s a good thing.”

Chuck Mai of AAA Oklahoma articulated our ideology even further when he said, “There’s a sense in Oklahoma, and I’m not sure if this is peculiar to this state, but we don’t like people telling us what to do… We know what we should do. We should buckle our safety belt every time we drive. We should drive sober. And we should have insurance on our vehicle. But having our law telling you to do those things sometimes has an adverse effect.”

Like Cunningham, Mai is absolutely right when he speaks about adverse effects. The adverse effects of Obamacare are why Governor Fallin turned down the “free” federal grant. Adverse effects of the law are also the reason why Governor Fallin should continue her leadership and opt out of expanding Medicaid in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma already faces unsustainable levels of Medicaid spending, even without the Obamacare expansion. Oklahoma’s Medicaid costs are expected to increase by more than $11 billion over the next decade. Add in the Obamacare expansion and the figure nearly quadruples to more than $40 billion, according to research conducted by the Cato Institute and OCPA. The Medicaid scheme is set up so that the federal government covers much of the costs, but leaves a significant portion for the states to finance. This will come in the form of tax raises, cuts in other state programs or through even more slashes in health care providers’ reimbursements from Medicaid. Additionally, with mounting fiscal pressures, there is no certainty that the federal government will not require states to contribute more in the future.

When it comes to the roles of government, a frontier mentality is exactly what this country needs. Oklahomans should be proud of their individual initiative and limited government tradition, and should continue to lead on these fronts.

By James Hall

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