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.firstname.lastname@example.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.