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December 9, 2012

Health board member resigns

OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Mary Fallin’s decision to reject federal money to expand Oklahoma’s Medicaid program has led a member of the Oklahoma State Board of Health to resign.

“It’s like federal funds are suddenly dirty,” former board member Glenn Davis said Friday. “Here’s an opportunity to make a major impact, and we refuse it. It just doesn’t make any sense to me.”

A dentist from Shawnee, Davis has served on the board since 2010 and was chairman of its public health policy committee.

“I will not serve as a ‘rubber stamp’ for the status quo in this political environment,” Davis said in his resignation letter to the governor’s office this week.

Last month, Fallin announced her decision to reject the funding, which is authorized under the federal Affordable Care Act. That law promises the government will pay for 100 percent of the benefit cost of the expansion for the first three years before gradually shifting costs to the state, capped at 10 percent in 2020.

Fallin said accepting the money would put the state at risk of costs of up to $475 million between now and 2020, with escalating annual expenses in subsequent years.

“Gov. Fallin has explained that expanding Medicaid as outlined under (the Affordable Care Act) is unaffordable,” Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said. “An expansion permanently locks the state into new costs which it cannot pay for without cutting funding for other priorities like education and public safety.

“Furthermore, it expands a massive and expensive government entitlement program without offering any meaningful reform.”

Weintz said the governor appreciates Davis’ service to the state and recognizes that people feel strongly about the Medicaid issue, but adds that Fallin “disagrees with the conclusions he draws about the federal health care law and the future of health care policy in Oklahoma.”

Davis said rejecting the funding will send the residents’ tax dollars elsewhere.

“Federal taxes paid by Oklahomans will now help pay for the health care of citizens in other states,” Davis wrote.

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