Medicaid on the chopping block

by | April 16th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

Download the TogetherOK fact sheet: SoonerCare Cuts Threaten Oklahoma’s Health

Photo by Eric Tastad used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo by Eric Tastad used under a Creative Commons license.

Just prior to the start of the legislative session we ran a blog  post titled “Avoiding devastating health care cuts will require hard choices.” Two-and-a-half  months later, as legislative leaders begin to look in earnest at crafting a budget deal, the budget outlook for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services continues to look grim. Lawmakers have not yet done anything to stave off cuts that would create serious hardship for Oklahomans.

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“I don’t know where we go from here”: Community health centers caught in limbo

by | April 7th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

weighing babyCommunity Health Connection, a Tulsa-based community health center, uses a sliding scale to determine patient payments. The minimum is $25 per appointment.

Jim McCarthy, Community Health Connection’s CEO, estimates that more than two in every three patients seen by his clinic qualify for the $25 minimum. However, even that small amount can be a hardship; some aren’t able to pay $25 in full. Community Health Connection allows such patients to pay in installments when they can.

“If somebody’s here,” McCarthy says, “we need to treat them.”

continue reading “I don’t know where we go from here”: Community health centers caught in limbo

Proposal to transform Medicaid could reduce health care access, increase costs

by | April 1st, 2014 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

This post has been updated. 

Click here to download our fact sheet on Medicaid managed care in Oklahoma.

The Oklahoma legislature is contemplating proposals that would move the state’s Medicaid population into managed care plans run by private insurance companies. SB 1495 would create a pilot program for privatized managed care at a to-be-determined location in Oklahoma by January 2016. HB 1552 would have moved all Medicaid patients into privatized managed care. It passed the House in 2013 and was assigned to a Senate committee, where it is awaiting further action.

medicaid payments per enrollee fy 2010Why fix what isn’t broken?

For the past decade, most Medicaid patients have been served through a medical home model – known as SoonerCare Choice – that uses primary care providers to coordinate patient care while maintaining traditional fee-for-service for most other medical services. This system has been stable, effective, and innovative.

continue reading Proposal to transform Medicaid could reduce health care access, increase costs

I get knocked down (Guest post: Camille Landry)

by | March 26th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare, Neglected Oklahoma, Poverty | Comments (0)

camille_landryCamille Landry is a writer, activist, and social justice advocate who lives in Oklahoma City.  This post is part of our “Neglected Oklahoma” series, which tells the stories of Oklahomans in situations where the basic necessities of life are hard to come by.  These are real people and their stories are true (names have been changed to protect privacy).

It’s Saturday morning at a free clinic in an Oklahoma City church staffed by student volunteers. Another group of volunteers is serving breakfast. There are over 100 people waiting for medical care. Many of those waiting have chronic diseases – diabetes, hypertension, asthma and/or heart disease. The patients are mostly between 18 and 65 – too old for Medicaid, too young for Medicare – but a few children wait to be seen, too. Most of the adults are employed.  None of them have health insurance.

George Carter sits at the table reading a textbook as he waits his turn. He is clean-cut and polite. George was 22 when he left a job at a big box store to attend college full time. “I was healthy. I was strong,” he says. “I planned to finish my computer science degree and join the Navy.”

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Are you covered yet?

by | March 24th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

Taking care of the youngThe deadline to sign up for health insurance is March 31st! We’re sure you’re already signed up – but what about your friends and family? We’ve compiled a list of the main reasons why they should get covered before March 31st. 

Here’s why Oklahomans should get covered:

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Health coverage enrollment hits home stretch

by | March 11th, 2014 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

health-insurance Tyler LaReau is an independent insurance agent in Norman. He’s a fan of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) — he likes what it does for people. “I put my political beliefs aside,” he said. “I don’t care. It’s the law of the land, and let’s see how many people we can help.”  

I asked Tyler what he thought the biggest obstacle was to enrollment. He didn’t hesitate: “Education. We’re fighting an uphill battle… We don’t have many people that, once we explain it to them, don’t think this is a good thing.”

A recent report suggests most American adults are unaware of most of the ACA’s main provisions; only between forty and sixty percent of respondents know, for example, that the ACA eliminates discrimination against people with preexisting conditions by insurance companies. But when Oklahomans with preexisting conditions visit Tyler’s office and find out that they can’t be charged more or discriminated against, “they’re ecstatic that they can’t be turned away.”

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The colors of money

by | March 6th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

Source: Oklahoma Economic Report, January 2014 via Oklahoma Watch

Recently, Treasurer Ken Miller shared data from the Council of Governments showing that Oklahoma ranked 7th  in the percentage of state expenditures from federal funds, with more than two-fifths (43 percent) of all dollars spent by the state spending coming from Washington.  Federal grants account for a large share of state spending on health care, human services, roads, education , public safety, environmental protection, and other core services.

The ten states with the highest reliance on federal dollars all have Republicans controlling both the Governor’s office and legislature (see chart), and seven of these states, including Oklahoma, are refusing to accept federal funds to expand health care coverage to low-income adults under the Affordable Care Act. Governor Fallin contends that accepting these federal funds is “unworkable and unaffordable,” and would “put Oklahoma on a fiscally unsound path.” However, an in-depth study by the Leavitt Group found that extending coverage would have a $14 – $17 billion positive economic impact on the state over a decade, and would reduce spending of state dollars by $450 – $485 million.

The unwillingness of states that rely most heavily on Washington for a whole range of programs and services to accept billions in federal funds to cover the uninsured has created some confusion.  OK Policy offers the following modest proposal to sort things out:

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Take a number: Oklahomans with disabilities face devastating delays

by | February 24th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)
Photo by GYLlo used under a Creative Commons license

Photo by GYLlo used under a Creative Commons license

Earlier this month, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced he would pledge $24 million to move people with developmental disabilities off the waiting list to receive home- and community-based services. Governor Nixon’s pledge will bring specialized medical equipment, therapy, job preparation, respite care and independent living skills to over 900 of Missouri’s most vulnerable citizens – about two-thirds of the children and adults in the queue.

“Our friends and neighbors will now get the life-changing services they need, when they need them,” Nixon said.

If only that were true in Oklahoma.

continue reading Take a number: Oklahomans with disabilities face devastating delays

Virtual Symposium on Rural Health and Poverty

by | February 12th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

rural hospitalSome of the highest poverty rates and least access to health care  in Oklahoma can be found in the state’s rural counties. Recently, we asked a group of Oklahomans with longstanding expertise on rural issues to respond in 400 words to the following questions : Does Oklahoma need a different approach to fighting poverty in rural areas, compared to urban and suburban parts of the state? What policies might help us address this problem? We received the following contributions from Denna Wheeler, Jeff Hackler and Chad Langraf; Karla Finnell; Tim Starkey; and Andy Fosmire.

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Why Oklahoma is losing Medicaid funding (Guest post: JeVonna Caine)

by | February 7th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Healthcare | Comments (0)

JeVonna_CaineJeVonna Caine,one of OK Policy’s 2013-14 Research Fellows,  is pursuing a Masters of Public Health in Health Administration and Policy from the OU Health Sciences Center, while also working at the State Department of Health in the Health Planning & Grants department. She has an extensive background in community health education and research with previous positions at Georgetown University and Youth Services of Tulsa.

With the state already facing a budget shortfall, Oklahoma lawmakers got unwelcome news last November, when they found out Oklahoma’s Medicaid program will need an additional $150 million just to continue current services. The extra costs are due to an expected increase in the number of Oklahomans eligible for Medicaid and a $56 million drop in federal funds coming to the state Medicaid program, Soonercare.

The reduction in federal funds is happening because of some otherwise good news — an increase in Oklahoma’s per capita income. The federal match for programs such as Medicaid, CHIP and TANF is calculated using a Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) formula. This formula assesses each state’s economy relative to the country as a whole and provides a smaller federal share for states with rising income.

So why is the need for Soonercare increasing even as our incomes are rising?

continue reading Why Oklahoma is losing Medicaid funding (Guest post: JeVonna Caine)