The Norman Transcript

Opinion

April 24, 2014

Health care needs have reached critical stage

NORMAN — Once again, the Republican-led Oklahoma legislators are leaving Oklahoma’s neediest in the dust with their proposed 2014-2015 budget.

Studies by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services project a steep decline in services for a wide section of Oklahoma’s most needy. (You do not need to be on public assistance to need the services of these two state agencies.) Not one attempt is being made to provide assistance in keeping projected cuts from happening to these critical state agencies.

The Oklahoma Healthcare Authority has compiled a list of measures it must take to address cuts to their budget for Fiscal Year 2015. Included are:

· Eliminating all optional medical benefits — including adult dental care, foot care, eye care, physical therapy and hearing, as well as medical supplies such as wheelchairs and diabetic supplies for a $10 million state savings.

· Coverage limitations for prescription drugs, doctor and hospital visits, other services and copayment rate increases with required prior authorization for certain patient services for a savings of $89 million.

· Lowering rates of reimbursement to providers who serve Medicaid patients. (A 1 percent, across-the-board provider rate cut would generate $8.9 million.) This means that cuts of approximately 9 percent would need to be made to address the $90 million shortfall. (The policy of provider-care-rate cuts has been hotly contested at the federal level.)

Any of these cuts just pushes the costs further down the road because people will delay medical attention until a critical stage is reached. What is sad is that the $90 million shortfall in state funding is simply a part of, and does not address, the $373.7 million in total cuts faced because of the loss of federal matching funds. (The loss of said matching funds is due to Gov. Mary Fallin and the legislature refusing to endorse the Medicaid portion of the Affordable Care Act.)

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