Twenty-five elderly Oklahomans lost their home early last week when Wynnewood Care Center closed.
After taking years of reimbursement cuts and expecting more to come, the small skilled-nursing facility in Wynnewood had to shut down and move residents into other facilities in neighboring counties.
Then on Thursday, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) voted to cut daily reimbursements to nursing homes, residential facilities housing people with intellectual disabilities, and nursing facilities for people with AIDS by 4 percent. They also voted to cut payments to most Medicaid providers by 9 percent. Unless lawmakers pass a budget deal that fills all or most of the $70 million hole in OHCA’s budget triggered when the state Supreme Court struck down an unconstitutional cigarette tax, these cuts will take effect on December 1.
Similarly, although state-funded in-home care isn’t scheduled to expire until December 1, thousands of Oklahomans with disabilities and their caregivers are scrambling now to find alternatives. Nearly 189,000 Oklahomans who manage mental illness and addiction through state services are in a similar boat; nearly all outpatient service are scheduled to cease on December 1. While $23 million from the Rainy Day Fund may allow them to delay those cuts for a few weeks, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services still has a $50 million budget hole to contend with.
If lawmakers can come to an agreement in time, these cuts can be stopped — but as Wynnewood’s closure shows, a lot of damage has already been done.
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