The Norman Transcript

Opinion

November 28, 2012

Medicaid rolls will grow, even without state’s OK

NORMAN — Even though Oklahoma has rejected federal money to set up an insurance exchange and expansion of its Medicaid rolls, the state will likely still face an increase in health care costs.

A bipartisan report suggests people eligible for Medicaid but not currently signed up will enroll as the 2014 deadline for insurance approaches. By then, most Americans not eligible for Medicaid will be required to carry private health insurance or face a fine.

The study, by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Urban Institute, said adding 20 million more low-income Americans to Medicaid rolls will cost about $1 trillion over the next decade, but the states’ share amounts to about $76 billion, about 7 percent of the total.

Oklahoma estimates that the new health care mandates will allow an additional 200,000 uninsured Oklahomans to join the Medicaid rolls. These are individuals who hospitals and charity clinics now treat while receiving no reimbursement. The law allows persons up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line to be covered under Medicaid.

Expanding the rolls would help health care providers recover some of their costs. It would also make up for some of the cuts being made to Medicare reimbursement to pay for the expanded coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Oklahoma hospitals anticipate a $1.6 billion reduction in Medicare payments through 2020 and beyond. Oklahoma hospitals provided nearly $600 million in uncompensated care last year. The lack of reimbursement means more costs will be shifted to insured patients.

The state’s refusal to expand Medicaid means Oklahoma hospitals and other providers will receive fewer reimbursement dollars while other states are able to expand their coverage.

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