18.5% of Oklahomans have no health insurance

Lawton_Oklahomans can reduce the state's unhealthy reputation by remaining physically fit and eating healthfully, but sometimes getting proper health care is to blame.  18.5% of Oklahomans don't have health insurance which makes it hard to stay healthy.  And, some who actually have insurance run into problems with the quality of their coverage.  Nationally, it's a debate that may very well be at the forefront of next year's presidential election.  Locally, it's certainly something to talk about.

According to local professionals, the three biggest issues are:  inability to afford health insurance, no access to a primary care physician and pre-existing conditions.  Naming the problems is easy but finding a solution to the problem is the hard part.  Sometimes it really is a life or death situation and not having health insurance may very well be the determining factor.

"It should be everybody's right to have good health care," says Jenny Breed from the Southwest Oklahoma Health Education Center.  This problem is something that people in Comanche County can relate to.  "In Comanche County... there's 13.3% that do not have health insurance," she says.

The reasons why there are so many uninsured Oklahomans are endless, but economics is the most obvious.  "Health care is very expensive, but so is being ill because it kind of creates a vicious cycle, if you're ill you can't work and if you can't work you don't have the resources nor the opportunity for insurance," says Breed.

Although there are people without healthcare who can work, some employers just can't afford to offer health insurance.  "It's just so cost prohibitive, that you know, do I provide health care for my employees or do I keep the doors open, it's a tough choice," says Joe Langley at the SW OK Health Education Center.

And, in rural or more remote areas, access to a primary care physician isn't always so simple.  "In Washita and Kiowa counties there are no primary care physicians. There are some counties that there is, like in Greer county there is one primary care physician," says Langley.  And, last - pre existing conditions.

"That's particularly of interest to people who are maybe migrating from one job to another or have been laid off," says Langley.  "Companies sold out, they've lost their jobs, anything you have had as a pre existing condition may be put you at risk for getting new coverage."

The rate of uninsured in Oklahoma is approaching 20%.  In Comanche County it's 13.3%, but having Fort Sill in the mix brings that number down.