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Oklahoma turns down $54M for health care reforms

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Oklahoma's Republican governor announced Thursday that her state is rejecting a $54.6 million grant to set up its state-based health care exchange system.

Gov. Mary Fallin said the move "accomplishes my goal from the very beginning: stopping the implementation of the president's federal health care exchange in Oklahoma," Politico reports. Just two months ago, however, Fallin had said the federal assistance was "consistent with our [health care] mission" and a "step in the right direction."

Other states have turned down federal grants of $1 million to build a health care exchange -- an online "marketplace" that consumers could use to compare and purchase insurance plans -- but the Oklahoma grant is the largest that has been rejected by far.

Under President Obama's health care reforms, each state is expected to have a health care exchange set up by 2014. If a state chooses not to set up its own state-based exchange, the federal Health and Human Services Department is obligated to set one up for the state. However, lawmakers in Oklahoma aren't letting that happen, either.

Fallin said Thursday Oklahoma will use state and private money to establish its own exchange, the Oklahoman reports, even though the state faces a $500 million budget shortfall in the upcoming fiscal year.

State legislators are currently drafting a bill to set up an exchange that would explicitly prevent the implementation of a federal exchange in Oklahoma while the state is developing its own network. "That should send a message to the rest of the country that we're going to take care of our own problems here in Oklahoma," Republican state Senate leader Brian Bingman said, according to the Oklahoman.

Oklahoma is one of several states that has sued the federal government to challenge the constitutionality of the federal health care reforms. As states use their own methods to reject the federal reforms, Republicans in Congress have taken various steps to dismantle the bill and continue to talk about repealing the entire package.

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