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Oklahoma politician creates ruckus with football ticket comment

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Go messin' with people's Sooners and Cowboys tickets, and you be messin' with a lot of pissed off people.

That's what a state insurance commissioner found out when she suggested that state residents who don't purchase health insurance might forfeit tickets to OU and OSU games, hunting licenses or even their drivers' licenses, according to The Associated Press.

"None of those are very pleasant, but there needs to be a consequence," Insurance Commissioner Kim Holland reportedly said. "We have developed this culture over the years that some don't feel like they have to pay their medical bills."

Shortly thereafter, Holland found out there are consequences to making a statement like that.

Not that she didn't have a point to make, according to the story. State government health figures showed 16.7 percent of Oklahomans are uninsured, numbering as many as 579,036 residents. According to Holland, those uninsured Oklahomans cost the system more than $1 billion a year for uncompensated medical costs.

State Rep. Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, the House Health Care Reform Task Force co-chair, chimed in.

"I believe the place to start is to create a situation within our state that people are without excuse for not having health insurance," Steele reportedly said. "Once we get to the point where people are without excuse, then we create the incentives."

But he also said that once this utopian vision of affordable health insurance is achieved, the slackers need to be whacked.

"You need the carrot and the stick," he said.

Sure enough, before you could say, "bedlam," Holland's office started fielding calls from irate fans. Around the state, comments about Holland lit up Web sites.

Even Rush Limbaugh got in on the action.

"We're talking just average, ordinary run-of-the-mill, go-get-a-checkup kind of health coverage," Limbaugh said. "Oklahoma. Oklahoma! Sixty-five percent voted for McCain. Until this, I was going to require the Republican Party to study what's going on in Oklahoma, but now I don't want them to study it because they'll probably think it's a good idea."

Eventually, the prestigious Columbia Journalism Review suggested Holland was out of bounds " and also The Oklahoman, which first ran the story, for not questioning her wacky idea.

"All this suggests that the insurance commissioner and the state rep. don't understand family economics and budgets. But a good reporter at the The Daily Oklahoman should," the Review stated. "The paper's reporter should be pinning down the commissioner and reporting about this."

Days later, Holland issued a mea culpa, claiming she had only been joking.

"It was one small part of a larger discussion, and it was generally in jest," Holland said, according to AP.

"We aren't looking at ways to take away these football tickets, but rather, how do we make sure people feel as strongly about paying their medical bills and getting the care they need as they do the things they enjoy doing, like going to football games or going hunting."

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