Lawton_Almost 20% of Oklahomans have no health insurance, and experts say about half of the uninsured are between the ages of 18 and 32. Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland says high costs, confusion about plans, and a lack of urgency contribute to the problem. She says policies with low rates often have deductibles ranging in the thousands of dollars.
According to a report from the Centers for Disease Control, Oklahoma ranked 42nd in the nation for health insurance coverage, but it isn't only younger people feeling the burden. Many folks are struggling day-to-day to decide between feeding and clothing themselves, or going to the doctor.
Chrystal Chambers is sick and cannot do anything about it. "I can't afford to call in and miss work," she said. "I can't even afford to go to the doctor." She isn't the only one. "Most offices want cash up front - they don't want payments," said Becky Robson. "A lot of times when you get ill with the flu, you don't have $100-150 to pay for an office visit."
Workers at Comanche County Memorial Hospital's clinic say they deal directly with the uninsured, and constantly are clearing out exam rooms to call new patients back. "We have been seeing a lot of people who have been laid off of their jobs without any health insurance needing to be seen," said Dr. Maria Mithlo. "They need medications - they need care." However, that care comes at a cost, and it's a cost many can't afford. "If you don't have health insurance, you put off health care as long as you possibly can, and then you go to the emergency room rather than going to a primary care provider," said Ryan Smith.
Going to the emergency room is not always possible if you have no insurance and very little income. But, there is help out there - Medicaid and Insure Oklahoma programs. However, those programs still aren't an option for some since medical professionals say there could be income guidelines or other stipulations for assistance.
For many who don't have insurance, the only option available is to wait for a program that could help. State Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland recognizes the problem that Oklahoma is facing, and she and her staff are working hard to implement an insurance program that will help uninsured individuals who are facing the health insurance crisis. Holland and her team are hoping the plan will be ready by the next legislative session.