Governor Fallin’s decision not to expand the Medicaid program to cover uninsured low-income adults is deeply troubling and unfortunate, putting politics over the interests of Oklahomans. We are missing a vital opportunity to improve the health of our citizens, bolster the financial situation of our health care providers, and strengthen our state economy.
If we do not expand Medicaid, some 150,000 low-income uninsured Oklahomans will be stuck in a ‘coverage crater’, earning too little to qualify for subsidized coverage through the health insurance exchanges that the Affordable Care Act reserves for individuals earning between 100 and 400 percent of poverty. These Oklahomans will be denied coverage that we know ensures better access to health care services, less financial hardship, and better health outcomes.
Not expanding Medicaid also means that federal taxes paid by Oklahomans will be spent on health care in other states, not here in Oklahoma. Hospitals, community health centers, physicians, and other medical providers across Oklahoma will continue to absorb unnecessarily high levels of uncompensated care, while shifting costs to Oklahomans with insurance through higher charges and insurance premiums.
The Governor’s statement suggests that Medicaid expansion would impose unmanageable costs on the state. In reality, the expansion is a very favorable deal for Oklahoma. The federal government will pay 100 per cent of the cost for the first three years and ultimately 90 percent of the cost in 2020 and thereafter. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority estimates the state’s share of Medicaid costs in 2020 at $28 – $37 million – an amount that is less than 0.5 percent of current state appropriations. In fact, Medicaid expansion could well save the state money, since Medicaid would pick up expenditures currently paid for with state-only dollars by the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and Department of Corrections.
We fervently hope that in the coming months, the Governor will reconsider this decision, and along with legislative leaders, choose to do what is best for Oklahoma’s citizens by expanding Medicaid for low-income adults.
Click here for more information regarding Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act