OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The clock is ticking for the Oklahoma legislature. If a new law is not passed in the next couple weeks, Oklahoma’s Medicaid expansion will go forward under the privatized plan proposed by Gov. Kevin Stitt. But there is a bill that could keep the expansion in the hands of the state.
Senate Bill 131 has been passed by the House. It keeps the Medicaid expansion Oklahomans called for last year in state government’s hands. But will it even be heard in the State Senate and can it override a potential veto from Stitt?
“There is still an ongoing discussion on 131. I don’t think we in the Senate would pass it in its current format,” said Sen. Frank Thompson.
The Republican from Springer says it’s not perfect, but privatized expansion is the way to go given Oklahoma’s health outcomes under the current plan.
“Even though we have spent a lot of money, I don’t think we have seen any improvement in our health outcomes. Oklahoma is always at the bottom of the scale,” said Thompson.
But providers disagree. Doctors and dentists were at the State Capitol this week, lobbying senators to give a chance to the bill that keeps Medicaid handled by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. They say as much as 11 percent more of the total budget goes to the Managers, not toward actual health care, and they say the state has been down this privatized road before.
“We have tried this path before in the early 1990s. It was scrapped within about 6 years based on the poor availability of physicians and dentists,” said Dr. Mary Clark, President of the Oklahoma Medical Association.
“These are the most at-risk children in our community and in our state; they often have very limited access to providers anyway,” said Dr. Brian Molloy, an Oklahoma City pediatric dentist.
Some dentists say under Stitt’s privatized plan, children, using Medicaid for dental care, would have to get pre-authorization for anything more than a cleaning.
“Many of these children, they come to us with severe issues. The treatment times could be delayed by weeks or even months we know,” said Molloy.
But Stitt is standing firm in his stance that privatization is the way to go, saying 42 other states use the plan. Forty-two of the 48 states that rank above Oklahoma in health outcomes. Stitt says hospitals are pushing the bill because it puts more money in their pockets.
“You notice it’s not the taxpayers, it’s not the people on Medicaid that are complaining about this change, it’s the big hospital association,” Stitt said.
KFOR talked to the Oklahoma Hospital Association on Wednesday. They say they stand behind the doctors at the Capitol this week. The State Legislature has until the end of the month to hear SB131 or something similar. If no new law is passed, Stitt’s privatization plan goes into effect Oct. 1.