The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is shutting out Oklahomans from voicing concerns about a major change for health care for most SoonerCare members.
On Nov. 12, the OHCA Medical Advisory Committee voted to condemn the agency’s efforts to transition the state’s Medicaid program to managed care, although the topic was not on the meeting agenda. The motion was raised after the agency prevented an Oklahoma Policy Institute staff member from speaking on the topic.
Emma Morris, OK Policy’s Health Care Policy Fellow, had pre-registered to make a public comment at Thursday’s meeting and received email confirmation that she was on the list of public speakers. However, she was never allowed to make her comments to the public board that is charged with advising OHCA about health and medical care services.
During the meeting, OHCA staff said two people had registered to make public comments, but those commenters would not be allowed to speak because their subject matter of their comments (managed care) were not on the meeting agenda. OHCA guidelines for speaking at MAC meetings do not limit public comments only to agenda items.
OK Policy officials said OHCA’s actions on Thursday are consistent with its pattern of shutting out Oklahomans from providing input or comment on its efforts to implement managed care for SoonerCare, the state’s Medicaid program.
This summer, OHCA and Gov. Stitt announced it would seek proposals from companies to provide managed care, which would transition coordination of medical services from OHCA to a private, third-party vendor. Oklahoma has tried this approach in the past, and it was ultimately shelved due to its high costs. The matter also has not been formally shared with the Legislature who are responsible for creating the state’s budget.
On Friday, the CoverOK coalition of health care providers and Oklahoma non-profit organizations had released a statement calling on OHCA to ensure that the state’s health care system best serves the needs of Oklahomans. Among its recommendations was “to provide clear communication and ample time for community members and stakeholders to weigh in for comment and feedback.”
Statement from OK Policy’s Executive Director Ahniwake Rose:
“The proposal to move SoonerCare to a managed care system is a major taxpayer expenditure, and it is deeply troubling that OHCA is not providing opportunity for Oklahomans to have either public comment or open discussion about this major change. It’s antithetical to proper management of the people’s business — and use of their tax dollars — when the public is actively denied the ability to speak at a public meeting. We call on the OHCA and the Governor to provide opportunities for Oklahomans and the Legislature to provide feedback to this very significant change to Oklahoma’s health care system that has historical precedent for being bad policy in Oklahoma.”