NORMAN — When Gov. Mary Fallin made the announcement in November that she was going to reject an Obama administration offer to finance much of the cost of expanding Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, Brian Karnes, CEO of Health For Friends in Norman was a bit shocked.
“I was more shocked with the Supreme Court’s announcement. I thought the Medicaid was a no brainer, so when they came back and said, no the states will have discretion rather they want to accept that or not, I was more shocked at that. As soon as I heard that, I kind of knew the writing on the wall. Still, I think I was a little bit shocked that is was turned down,” Karnes said. “I was disheartened, I guess. Just knowing all the good that it would do and the access that it could provide for all of those individuals that don’t have it (medical coverage) now.”
And those individuals Karnes knows all too well. As the CEO of a non-profit facility that has offered health care to the medically needy in Norman since 1985, Karnes is forced to see the impact Health for Friends has had on the community. Health for Friends is a comprehensive health care center with a medical clinic, dental clinic, prescription assistance and social work programs. A second clinic, the Health for Friends Women and Children’s Center, opened in November at 1124 N. Porter Ave.
“If she (Gov. Fallin) did accept the expansion, in January 2014, almost all of our patients would then have coverage. The vast majority of our folks that we currently see, that don’t have coverage, would then be covered by Medicaid. What that means for us, obviously, is another revenue stream. Us being a non-profit, we can take that additional revenue and put it back into services and either expand or do various things to help out our clients more,” Karnes said.