NORMAN — Now that Gov. Mary Fallin has rejected the Obama administration’s Medicaid expansion proposal, she has asked Commissioner of Health Terry Cline to help her devise an “Oklahoma solution” for addressing the state’s health needs.
In an interview with Oklahoma Watch’s Warren Vieth, Cline discusses why state officials said no to Washington, why Oklahoma ranks near the bottom of many health indexes and why he’s ready to take on tobacco industry lobbyists when the legislature convenes next month.
A native of Ardmore, Cline has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and served as President George W. Bush’s director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. He also serves as Fallin’s secretary of health and human services.
Q: Why did the state turn down the Obama administration’s Medicaid expansion?
A: There are people who say our health care system is a sick care system. That’s the way it’s structured. All of our money is going into that. If we just expand our current system, it doesn’t solve the problem.
Let me give you an example. We’re sitting here in the Health Sciences Center. We have the highest concentration of health care in the state of Oklahoma all around us … hundreds of doctors, hundreds of nurses, numerous hospitals. Anyone can access services here because it’s a sliding-scale fee. This is a teaching hospital environment. It’s already being subsidized by the state.
Q: But if we go two blocks over, I can show you some of the worst health outcomes in the entire state. Two blocks. The infant mortality rate is twice as high as it is two miles in the other direction. If the answer is just increasing access to health care, then why do all these individuals who are living within walking distance have the worst health outcomes?