In the March 26 article "Critic of managed care, Standridge profited from current Medicaid system," The Norman Transcript's choice to focus on Sen. Rob Standridge's pharmacy ownership ignores the fundamental problems with privatizing our state's Medicaid program. I am writing today to address this oversight.
One of the most pressing concerns that Sen. Standridge and others in health care have with Oklahoma's managed care scheme is that it will not improve health care as promised. If implemented, managed care will actually lead to a decrease in services for some of our state's most vulnerable citizens.
Why? Unlike our current state-run system, the new managed care will be overseen by for-profit, out-of-state insurance companies. These companies demand up to 15% in administrative fees, which is significantly more than the Oklahoma Health Care Authority's (OHCA) 4% administrative cost. To put it simply, out of every $100 spent on Medicaid, up to $15 would go to a middleman instead of patient care.
In addition, according to OHCA's actuarial adviser, Oklahoma's managed care scheme is dependent on cutting health care claim expenditures by 40 to 60%. Who will bear the brunt of these cuts? Our friends, neighbors and those in the community who require care.
Furthermore, privatization of Medicaid in other states has not resulted in the promised savings. Money that could be spent on patient care instead goes to boost insurance companies' profits. Meanwhile, the increased red tape and denied claims will result in fewer providers and longer waits for care.
This is not conjecture; it's a historical fact. When Oklahoma previously privatized its Medicaid system in the 1990s, the result created an access-to-care crisis for pregnant women, children and other vulnerable Oklahomans. Ultimately, the Legislature scrapped managed care in the early 2000s and returned to the previously successful state-run model.
One last fact The Transcript neglected to mention in its article is that one of Oklahoma's state agencies has committed more than $2 billion taxpayer dollars to these four insurance companies without any legislative oversight. This is not only an affront to our state legislators, like Sen. Standridge; it should outrage all of us.
Right now, all Oklahomans should be asking hard questions about our state's push for managed care. As a physician and a long-time Norman resident, I urge all of you to learn more about this issue at healthcareholdup.com and contact your elected officials at oklegislature.gov.
Steven D. Jimerson, M.D.