The Norman Transcript

Opinion

April 17, 2013

Medicaid expansion support still growing

NORMAN — As the state continues to look into ways to provide health care coverage to low income persons, two more respected voices have joined the chorus to expand access to Medicaid for eligible Oklahomans.

The former director of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority told an Oklahoma City newspaper he supports Medicaid expansion in the state. Additionally, Dr. Michael Crutcher, formerly a state health commissioner and now medical quality director at Variety Care, said providing the care was a “moral and ethical issue.”

It’s also an economic issue. Health care providers, mostly hospital emergency rooms, will continue to be expected to provide care for all Oklahomans after the mandate kicks in. Those costs will continue to be passed on to customers with private health insurance.

It’s estimated state hospitals stand to lose $2.9 billion if the state does not expand Medicaid eligiblity. One in five Oklahomans lacks health insurance.

The federal Affordable Care Act was upheld by the Supreme Court this past year. The same court gave states the option on expanding Medicaid. Several governors have reversed their decision on expanding Medicaid rolls but Oklahoma’s Gov. Mary Falllin has refused to budge. Her rationale is that it will cost the state money it doesn’t have and the promise of continued federal dollars is not absolute.

Legislators estimate expanding the rolls would bring about $8.2 billion in federal dollars to the state over the next decade. That money could keep a lot of rural hospital doors open.

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