Document 184016

Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Federal oicials pleaded
for patience, saying the site
had received nearly 3 million
visits since midnight Tuesday.
“This is Day 1 of a sixmonth process,” said Marilyn
Tavenner, administrator for
the Centers for Medicare and
Medicaid Services, the federal agency charged with implementing the law. “We are
in a marathon, not a sprint
and we need your help.”
During a conference call
with reporters, Tavenner said
consumers had enrolled in
health care through the site
Tuesday but numbers were
not available.
The law requires that all
Americans have health insurance, unless they fall into an
exempt category.
Uninsured people have
until March 31 to obtain coverage if they want to avoid a
ine. Consumers who want
coverage to begin Jan. 1 must
sign up by Dec. 15.
People who receive health
insurance through their jobs
or a government program
such as Medicare are in compliance with the law and
don’t need to take any action.
Oklahoma is one of 36
states where the federal
government will run or help
run the exchange, a website
where consumers can shop
for health insurance.
Kevin Bohlander, 29, said
he has no insurance and has
run up large medical bills
going to emergency rooms
for help with his seizure disorder. Bohlander said he is
very interested in being able
to buy coverage through the
He attended a health fair
sponsored by Blue Cross and
Johnie Asbury listens to speakers as he follows along with handouts during a public question-and-answer forum/panel discussion
about the Afordable Care Act held at the Tulsa Technology Center north campus in Tulsa on Monday. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World
Blue Shield of Oklahoma
Tuesday and began the enrollment process.
“Now that there’s something that they say is going
to be afordable, I can have
insurance. I can actually have
a primary care doctor,” Bohlander said.
650,000 uninsured residents,
ranking No. 5 nationally in
the number of uninsured.
The law includes subsidies
for people making between
$11,490 and $45,960 per year
for an individual. Individu-
House Bill 3393 timeline
May 2010: Lindsey Nicole
Henry Scholarships for Students with Disabilities Act,
or House Bill 3393, is signed
into law.
Fall 2010: Broken Arrow,
Jenks, Liberty, Tulsa and
Union school boards vote
not to process the scholarships.
January 2011: Oklahoma
Attorney General Scott
Pruitt threatens legal action against those school
districts and individual
board members if they fail to
comply with the law within
the week.
January 2011: Broken Arrow,
Jenks, Liberty and Union
school districts announce
that they will sue Pruitt over
the constitutionality of the
law. They also vote to process scholarships under the
law until a decision is made
on its constitutionality.
April 2011: Twenty parents
sue Broken Arrow, Jenks,
Tulsa and Union school
districts in Tulsa federal
court, saying their specialneeds children were denied
private school scholarships
in 2010-11.
May 2011: The Legislature
passes HB 1744, which
transfers responsibility for
administering the scholarship program from the
districts to the Oklahoma
Department of Education.
July 2011: In light of that
legislation, federal Chief U.S.
District Judge Claire Eagan
grants the parents a stay so
they can pursue administrative remedies through the
state Education Department.
Eagan invites the school districts to file their challenge
of HB 3393’s constitutionality in state court.
September 2011: Jenks and
Union school districts file a
countersuit in state court to
challenge the constitutionality of the law on behalf of
all school districts. Their
suit names the parents of
students in each district who
participated in the federal
lawsuit against the schools.
November 2011: The federal
lawsuit against the Broken
Arrow, Jenks, Tulsa and
Union school districts is
dismissed at the parents’
March 2012: Tulsa County
District Judge Rebecca
Nightingale strikes down
the law, ruling it unconstitutional.
June 2012: Attorneys for the
parents appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
November 2012: Oklahoma
Supreme Court throws out
the case, ruling the school
districts did not have standing to challenge the constitutionality of the law.
October: A group of Oklahomans sue in Oklahoma
County District Court to
have the Henry law invalidated on the basis that
it violates the state constitutional ban on using public
funds for private religious
als making close to the poverty level in Oklahoma could
qualify for free coverage under some plans.
Melissa Parchman, owner of Magoon & Associates
agency in Tulsa, said she
hopes uninsured people take
their time reviewing available plans before making a
decision. Consumers should
examine issues such as which
doctors are in a plan’s network and whether prescriptions have a separate deductible, she said.
Parchman called Tuesday’s
technical problems “disappointing but not anything
that we should not have anticipated.”
“I wish that we would just
declare the month of October as an education month,”
Parchman said.
President Barack Obama
said during a televised appearance Tuesday that the
new health care program is
“open for business.” Obama
said the website was running
slowly on its irst day because
of high demand for what the
law ofers.
Obama said a government
shutdown sparked by Republican opposition to the
health care law would not
stop enrollment in the plans.
The president signed the Patient Protection and Afordable Care Act into law three
years ago and it has been upheld by the Supreme Court.
Oklahoma insurance companies ofering coverage
through the exchange urged
patience as the complicated,
nationwide system gets underway.
“With a new program of
The 12 plaintifs
religious schools. Only six
speciically cater to students
with special needs.
Last November, the Oklahoma Supreme Court tossed
out a challenge of the law by
the Union and Jenks school
districts, ruling that “school
districts are not taxpayers
themselves, whom this Court
has long recognized have a
right to challenge the illegal
expenditure of public funds.”
The 12 plaintifs in the case
iled Tuesday include a state
senator, retired and current
superintendents, a parent of
a child with special needs,
college professors and a retired judge.
“The plaintifs are all taxpayers in Oklahoma,” said
Kirby Lehman, a plaintif
and retired Jenks superintendent. “According to the
previous written statements
by the Oklahoma Supreme
Court, they have standing to
institute such a lawsuit.”
State records show that
more than $1.3 million in
state public school funds
was paid last year to send
220 special-needs students
to private schools under the
law. The previous year, the
state spent $936,000 for 148
students to be sent to private
“The Oklahoma Constitution only authorizes the Legislature to fund ‘a system of
free public schools wherein
all the children of the state
may be educated,’ ” the lawsuit says.
• Stacy L. Acord, attorney and
mother of two children who
attend Bristow Public Schools
• Retired speech therapist
Robert M. Peters, who worked
for years for Bartlesville Public
• Former Superintendent
Randall K. Raburn, professor
of Education Leadership and
Policy Studies at the University of Oklahoma
• Melissa Abdo, coordinator
of the Tulsa Area Parent Legislative Action Committee and
member of the Jenks Public
Schools Board of Education
• Tim Green, who has 37
years of experience in public
education as a superintendent, business manager,
teacher and coach
• Retired District Judge Gordon R. Melson, who practices
law in Ada and Seminole and
previously served as district
attorney for the 22nd Judicial
• Clarence G. Oliver Jr., dean
emeritus and professor in
the College of Education at
Oral Roberts University and
former Broken Arrow superintendent
• State Sen. Earl Garrison,
D-Muskogee, former Fort
Gibson superintendent
• Amy Vargus, former public
school teacher and parent of
three children — one of whom
has special needs
• Ponca City Superintendent David K. Pennington,
president-elect of the American Association of School
• Rev. Ray Hickman, Presbyterian minister and executive
director of the Tulsa Metropolitan Ministry
• Former Jenks Superintendent Kirby Lehman and
winner of the 2013 Oklahoma
Association of School Administrators Lifetime Achievement Award
The Oklahoma Supreme
Court has already ruled that
when a parent wants to send
a child to a private secular
or religious school, that parent is “faced with the necessity of assuming the inancial
burden which the choice entails,” the lawsuit continues.
Plaintif Amy Vargus, a former public school teacher
and mother of a child with
special needs, said, “I just
feel like they are using special-needs kids to promote
an agenda that has nothing to
do with special education.”
Because the vouchers
don’t pay for the full amount
of private-school tuition,
only those who can pay the
diference can actually use
them, she said.
“If I choose to send my kid
to private school, that’s my
choice. I just don’t think it’s
fair to ask my neighbor to
pay for my kids to go to private school,” Vargus said.
Most of the approved private schools aren’t equipped
to teach children with
special needs, and once
those students leave public
schools, parents are signing
away their children’s federal
this magnitude, it is not unexpected to have system
glitches initially,” Ashley
Hudgeons, a spokeswoman for Blue Cross and Blue
Shield of Oklahoma, said in
an email.
The company is one of ive
ofering coverage through
Oklahoma’s exchange. The
others are CommuintyCare,
Coventry Health Care, GlobalHealth and Aetna.
“As the Marketplace is new
for everyone, we expected
that and are prepared for the
volume of activity to ebb and
low during the enrollment
period, for any number of
reasons. Overall, consumers working with Blue Cross
and Blue Shield of Oklahoma
are experiencing a relatively
smooth process on our website where they can begin the
enrollment process, and we
are working to manage any
disruptions that may occur.”
Alison Williams, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma
Primary Care Association,
said “navigators” were busy
helping consumers with
questions about the law
Tuesday. The association
received a federal grant to
train navigators, specialists
who help people enroll in
coverage under the law.
“We have noticed some issues with the site. It appears
to be that way across the
country,” Williams said in an
“So far, we’ve noticed a
trend of many consumers
using the website irst to
get more information, with
expectations that questions
will signiicantly increase
once consumers have had
the opportunity to browse
online . . . Navigators here today are exclusively focusing
on assisting consumers.”
Ziva Branstetter 918-581-8306
[email protected]
rights to special education
services and due process
protections, she said.
Rep. Jason Nelson, R-Oklahoma City, co-author of the
Henry law, said he irst heard
about the lawsuit Tuesday
afternoon from a parent who
was concerned about what
will happen to her child now.
“This lawsuit comes on
the heals of a lawsuit iled by
President Obama’s administration against a similar law
in Louisiana,” Nelson said.
“The opposition here and in
the Louisiana case appears
to be about an ideological
hostility to the rights of parents to direct the education
of their children — not about
legitimate legal concerns.”
He said he looks forward
to working with Barresi,
Oklahoma Attorney General
Scott Pruitt and other supporters to vigorously defend
the law.
“The plaintifs simply can’t
see that this is not about
funding institutions but
about ensuring children get
the best education possible
regardless of where they get
that education,” Nelson said.
Sen. Earl Garrison, DMuskogee, also a plaintif
in the case, said he spent 44
years in public education
and knows it is essential to
“I believe very strongly
in the state constitution
and what the state Supreme
Court has already ruled, and
that is we aren’t to be sending public money into private schools.”
Kim Archer 918-581-8315
[email protected]
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