LAWTON, Okla._More workers in Oklahoma will have access to the state's 'Insure Oklahoma" health coverage plan through their employers.
Governor Mary Fallin announced Monday that the employer size limit is being increased from 99 employees to 250, effective immediately. The program was created in 2005 to assist companies in providing health insurance for middle-to-low income employees.
Jim foster is an Employee Benefits Producer at Insurica. He said a number of his employers only offer coverage because of Insure Oklahoma.
"Insurance premiums are getting higher and higher, so the employers are having a more difficult time providing that for their employees," said Foster.
The subsidizing health program usually covers about 60 percent of the cost, leaving the employer to pay at least 25 percent and the employee pays 15 percent. It also helps with premiums for an employee's spouse and/or children.
The program is funded by the state tobacco tax and is matched by federal Medicaid money. But the funding is only secure through 2016, and it's worrying business owners.
"Since 2013, they have been getting it approved year-by-year, 'ok we're going to extend it each year'. So employers are concerned about that ending," said Foster.
However, Foster said the expansion to include larger companies proves to him that Insure Oklahoma is here to stay.
"Oh yeah. It's been around a long time and I personally think it will continue. And I think it's a boom for employers, it's great," said Foster.
To qualify for the program, employees must be at least 19 years old, have a full-time job, and be at or below the income guidelines. The guidelines take into account family or household size, how many workers in that house are employed, and salary.
This is the third time in its history that the program has expanded. It currently serves more than 17,000 Oklahomans and 3,500 companies.