Act quickly to stop harmful Medicaid changes

empty wallet

Photo by NoHoDamon used under a Creative Commons license.

A few weeks ago, we reported on the Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s plan to increase copayments for Medicaid recipients in an effort to cut costs in the face of a $90 million budget shortfall.

These copay increases could be devastating to Oklahoma’s poorest and sickest citizens, and they won’t even save money in the long run. Oklahomans need to act quickly to stop the fee hikes from taking effect. The Health Care Authority Board will meet on Thursday, June 26th to consider adopting an Emergency Rule to increase the copayments.

In our new fact sheet, we explain why Oklahoma should not hike Medicaid copays. Some highlights:

  • Copay hikes do the most harm to the poorest and sickest. Medicaid covers only the poorest and sickest in Oklahoma. Patients who need more medical care and prescriptions will see the largest cost hikes.
  • Copay hikes prevent needed care and lead to worse health. Studies show that copayment increases lead to a decline in access to essential care, and an increase in emergency room usage, hospitalization, and death.
  • Increased copays don’t save the state in the long-run. When patients can’t afford to access health care, they go without needed care until problems become too big to ignore and much more expensive to treat. It is much more cost-efficient to treat patients before health conditions turn into health crises.
  • Copay hikes make it harder for doctors to do their jobs. Doctors shouldn’t need to worry about whether patients can afford even the cheapest medications available, or to choose which among many necessary medications are most essential for cash-strapped patients. Doctors need to be able to focus on their patients’ health, not their pocketbooks.

It’s also important to note that this is an avoidable catastrophe. Oklahoma has the option to accept federal funds to expand health care to 140,000 low-income Oklahomans. The federal government would pay 100 percent of the costs of expansion through 2016, eventually dropping to 90 percent from 2020 onward. Accepting the funds would ease the state health system’s budget woes and provide accessible health care for those in need, all at a net savings to the state of between $447 and $487 million over ten years.  The copayment hikes are an avoidable disaster, but we have another option — if only Oklahoma’s political leaders will take it.

Even if we continue to refuse the federal funds, hiking copays is the wrong way to balance Oklahoma’s Medicaid budget.

If you object to these copayment increases, please contact the OHCA Board prior to the June 26th meeting by e-mailing Board Secretary Lindsey Bateman (Lindsey.bateman@okhca.org) or by sending a letter to: OHCA Board, 4345 N Lincoln Blvd, Oklahoma City, OK 73105. You can find a list of Board members here, or you can address your communication to: Oklahoma Health Care Authority Board Members.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in January of 2014. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern. A Kansas City native, Carly graduated from the University of Tulsa in December 2013 with a BA in Sociology and Women’s and Gender Studies. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. She is graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification Program, the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking program, and The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa. She previously served as board president for United Campus Ministry at the University of Tulsa. At OK Policy, Carly supervises policy staff and conducts research focusing on health care and the safety net.

8 thoughts on “Act quickly to stop harmful Medicaid changes

  1. Raising the copay amounts is absolutely the wrong thing to do.It benefits no one, and adds one more burden to those that are likely struggling financially already.I see no good reason to make the people of Oklahoma stretch their budgets even farther, when federal money is available to us.

  2. Raising fees on our most vulnerable residents is cruel when federal funds are available that would prevent the shortfall! Mary Fallin needs to consider what life is like for Medicaid recipients & weigh the importance of that against the need for her to save political face or stroke her own ego. Doesn’t the Good Book say “pride goeth before a fall”?

  3. It is bad enough that Oklahoma legislators refused the Medicaid expansion money, which would have helped an additional 200,000 low-income people! But to actually be cutting the benefits of those who are receiving Medicaid already, in my opinion, is very morally offensive! How can Oklahoma sit back and not take the money which the state could very much use, just because of some ideological disagreements?! Please stop blocking healthcare and take the Medicaid expansion money to help the poor in our state, not to mention keeping hospitals from going out of business! Sincerely, Sue Wolf

  4. It’s time Oklahoma decided to do right by its citizens. Doing anything except accepting funds for Medicaid Expansion shows not o ly lack of concern, it is immoral, unethical, and inhumane. Hasn’t Oklahoma shown enough disdainI for its “least of these” under the guise of “fiscal responsibility?” We all pay the same federal taxes and aren’t receiving the federal aid we desperately need. Funny how Oklahoma has not backed away from accepting federal funds for other reasons. Time to do the right thing by our most precious people.

  5. I wrote and submitted my email this morning. Here’s a copy:

    First of all, Oklahoma NEEDS to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid. I know the response to that is the cost and that we can’t afford it.

    Oklahoma also can’t afford to keep passing legislation that is unconstitutional, defend it in a court of law and resubmit to go through the whole process again. Oklahoma has also wasted millions(maybe more) in implementing and now dropping the common core standards.

    I’m sick of hearing that we can’t do this or that, especially when it comes to healthcare, when all this waste is happening with the very people in charge who are supposedly fiscally responsible.

    We NEED to keep the cost low for medicaid recipients. DO NOT RAISE THE COPAY. My family is covered and always has been, by health insurance and thankfully, we can afford it. There are too many in this state who can’t and copays certainly do not need to increased for these people. What in the world?

  6. Here is a copy of the email I sent:

    Dear Lindsey Bateman:

    Please do not consider increasing Medicaid copayments for our poorest citizens. Instead, try urging the governor and legislature to implement the Affordable Health Care Act (“Obamacare”) Medicaid expansion. This state has so many people living in poverty, it’s terrible to ride roughshod over their urgent needs. Giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Oklahomans and then trying to balance the budget on the poor and sick is shameful.

    Here are some reasons from okpolicy.org:

    Copay hikes do the most harm to the poorest and sickest. Medicaid covers only the poorest and sickest in Oklahoma. Patients who need more medical care and prescriptions will see the largest cost hikes.
    Copay hikes prevent needed care and lead to worse health. Studies show that copayment increases lead to a decline in access to essential care, and an increase in emergency room usage, hospitalization, and death.
    Increased copays don’t save the state in the long-run. When patients can’t afford to access health care, they go without needed care until problems become too big to ignore and much more expensive to treat. It is much more cost-efficient to treat patients before health conditions turn into health crises.
    Copay hikes make it harder for doctors to do their jobs. Doctors shouldn’t need to worry about whether patients can afford even the cheapest medications available, or to choose which among many necessary medications are most essential for cash-strapped patients. Doctors need to be able to focus on their patients’ health, not their pocketbooks.

    It’s also important to note that this is an avoidable catastrophe. Oklahoma has the option to accept federal funds to expand health care to 140,000 low-income Oklahomans. The federal government would pay 100 percent of the costs of expansion through 2016, eventually dropping to 90 percent from 2020 onward. Accepting the funds would ease the state health system’s budget woes and provide accessible health care for those in need, all at a net savings to the state of between $447 and $487 million over ten years. The copayment hikes are an avoidable disaster, but we have another option — if only Oklahoma’s political leaders will take it.

    Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.

    Donna Waltman

  7. Here is a copy of the email I sent:

    Dear Lindsey Bateman:

    Please do not consider increasing Medicaid copayments for our poorest citizens. Instead, try urging the governor and legislature to implement the Affordable Health Care Act (“Obamacare”) Medicaid expansion. This state has so many people living in poverty, it’s terrible to ride roughshod over their urgent needs. Giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Oklahomans and then trying to balance the budget on the poor and sick is shameful.

    Here are some reasons from okpolicy.org:

    Copay hikes do the most harm to the poorest and sickest. Medicaid covers only the poorest and sickest in Oklahoma. Patients who need more medical care and prescriptions will see the largest cost hikes.
    Copay hikes prevent needed care and lead to worse health. Studies show that copayment increases lead to a decline in access to essential care, and an increase in emergency room usage, hospitalization, and death.
    Increased copays don’t save the state in the long-run. When patients can’t afford to access health care, they go without needed care until problems become too big to ignore and much more expensive to treat. It is much more cost-efficient to treat patients before health conditions turn into health crises.
    Copay hikes make it harder for doctors to do their jobs. Doctors shouldn’t need to worry about whether patients can afford even the cheapest medications available, or to choose which among many necessary medications are most essential for cash-strapped patients. Doctors need to be able to focus on their patients’ health, not their pocketbooks.

    It’s also important to note that this is an avoidable catastrophe. Oklahoma has the option to accept federal funds to expand health care to 140,000 low-income Oklahomans. The federal government would pay 100 percent of the costs of expansion through 2016, eventually dropping to 90 percent from 2020 onward. Accepting the funds would ease the state health system’s budget woes and provide accessible health care for those in need, all at a net savings to the state of between $447 and $487 million over ten years. The copayment hikes are an avoidable disaster, but we have another option — if only Oklahoma’s political leaders will take it.

    Thank you for your consideration of this urgent matter.

    Donna Waltman
    Del City, OK

  8. Please do not adopt this plan! Oklahomans had an opportunity to receive Federal funds that would have eliminated the need for this. But did we accept it? Of course not…Mary Failin’ refused! We can refuse help for our sick, but can extend tax cuts or exemptions to the Oil industry and other corporate interests. What does that tell us about the quality of life in Oklahoma? It seems the Republican health care plan of “get sick, die quick” (unless you are rich) applies here!

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