New Insure Tulsa Plan

Oklahoma has had one of the worst uninsured rates in the nation for some time.

By: Joshua Danker-Dake | Category: Financial Services | Issue: September 2009

Mike Ziegenhorn, insurance agent and broker for the Holmes ­Organisation, says that the expansion of Insure Oklahoma – Insure Tulsa – has given even more people who could not afford ­insurance the opportunity to obtain coverage.

Oklahoma has had one of the worst uninsured rates in the nation for some time. But recently that’s been changing, thanks in large part to Insure Oklahoma, which is still working to increase the number of people eligible to participate.

The Oklahoma Employer/Employee Partnership for Insurance Coverage (O-EPIC), also known as Insure Oklahoma, was initiated in 2004 to help provide health care coverage for low-income working Oklahomans. Under the Employer-Sponsored Insurance program, the state pays 60 percent of premium costs, the employer pays 25 percent, and the employee pays the remaining 15 percent. For those who are self-employed, temporarily unemployed or whose employers do not offer health insurance, there is the O-EPIC Individual Plan, which allows the purchase of benefits directly through the state.

This July, Insure Tulsa, an expansion of Insure Oklahoma, went into effect. “The expanded program has given more people the opportunity to obtain coverage who couldn’t afford it in the past,” says Mike Ziegenhorn, an insurance agent and broker for the Holmes Organisation, an independent insurance agency that has been providing insurance and benefits for over 40 years. “We’ve been getting a good response so far, with more people becoming insured. It’s really helped to lower the number of uninsured people in the state. I’ve also seen a lot of people who have been able to add their spouses to their health coverage, where three to five years ago they wouldn’t have been able to because of the cost.”

As of July 2009, over 23,000 Oklahomans and nearly 5,000 businesses statewide were enrolled in Insure Oklahoma. That includes over 3,000 people and nearly 1,000 businesses in Tulsa County alone, according to  www.oepic.ok.gov. Through the Insure Oklahoma Individual Plan, the George Kaiser Family Foundation now offers eligible Tulsa residents $30 per month in premium assistance. In March, the Individual Plan was expanded to offer coverage for full-time college students, ages 19 through 22, who meet qualifying income guidelines.  There is also a $2,000 subsidy for small businesses paying their initial premiums. “This really makes it easier for small businesses to get started with insurance for their employees,” says Ziegenhorn. “Often the initial premium is expensive, and this helps small business owners who want to provide their employees with health insurance but can’t make the first premium.“In the last year, the income guidelines were changed to allow more people to participate. And the maximum number of employees for businesses has been raised to 99, so more businesses can participate.” Employees of companies of any size affected by layoffs or downsizing may also be eligible.  “Insure Tulsa is giving people as many opportunities as possible to become insured. I get calls every day – ‘How do I get on board?’ – from businesses and individuals,” says Ziegenhorn. “It continues to be a huge success.”O-EPIC is an excellent way for small businesses to provide affordable health insurance for their employees, as well as for individuals to afford benefits. For more information, contact the Holmes Organisation. You can visit them on the web at  www.theholmesorg.com. For more information on O-EPIC, visit www.oepic.ok.gov. For more information, contactThe Holmes ­Organisation1350 South Boulder Avenue, Ste. 1000Tulsa, OK 74119(918) 359-6000www.theholmesorg.com
www.oepic.ok.gov


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