Legislative session kicks off with governor’s address

Posted on: 2/6/19


On Monday, Feb. 4, the opening day of the 57th Oklahoma Legislature, Gov. Kevin Stitt addressed a joint session of the Oklahoma Legislature to present his proposals for the coming year. Stitt’s budget proposes holding the funding level for most of the state agencies flat. Six would receive increases including the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the state’s Medicaid agency. Stitt is proposing funding Graduate Medical Education (GME) with $62.9 million state dollars to replace that amount in federal funding and $14.8 million for the Children’s Health Insurance Program to make up for a reduced federal matching rate.

While health advocates, including the Oklahoma Hospital Association, were encouraged last week about reports that the new governor might be willing to consider a program to expand Medicaid, thereby showing a willingness to address Oklahoma’s soaring uninsured rate, the following remarks from the State of the State address are discouraging:  “While Medicaid expansion currently stops at a 90 percent federal match, we cannot assume that it will remain this high forever. The estimated $150 million price tag today for Oklahoma to expand Medicaid could leave us down the road fronting more than $1 billion when the federal government pulls back on its commitment. They’ve done it before and they will do it again.”

The OHA is the leading advocate for Medicaid Expansion and has offered solutions should the federal funds cease for this program, which is unlikely. Funding for GME is under a Waiver and Medicaid Expansion is in statute, thus uniquely different in their government authorization.  Thirty-seven states have already accepted the federal funds to expand Medicaid for working adults.
 
From 2017 to 2021, had Oklahoma accepted federal funds, more than $14.5 billion would have been injected into our state’s economy and more than 24,000 health care related jobs would have been created. (“Estimated Impact of New Coverage – Accepting Federal Funds, 2017-2021,” Analysis of state budget impact by Manatt Health by Dr. Gerald A. Doeksen, et al., OSU, April 2016.)

Because more people would get treatment earlier, including substance abuse and mental health treatment, acceptance would reduce the overall cost of health care delivery in Oklahoma. Right now, private payers and those buying insurance pay more to provide for uncompensated care. This cost shifting will be reduced by acceptance of federal funds for health care.

Just shy of one in five working age (19-64) Oklahomans is without health insurance coverage, making Oklahoma the state with the second highest uninsured rate in the U.S. at 19.7 percent – an increase from 15.4 percent, fifth highest in the nation in September 2015 (U.S. Census Bureau). The uninsured in Oklahoma mostly include low-income working adults in service-industry jobs.

For more details, click here. (Lynne White)

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