Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma?

Voter approval of S.Q. 802 would make ACA initiative part of state Constitution, Yukon lawmaker says

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By Conrad Dudderar

Senior Staff Writer

An Oklahoma Medicaid Expansion Initiative has “taken over the conversation” at the Oklahoma State Capitol, a Yukon lawmaker said this week.

Voter approval of State Question 802 would expand Medicaid in Oklahoma to certain low-income adults under the Affordable Care Act – also known as “Obamacare”.

It would become part of the Oklahoma Constitution, making it impossible for state legislators to make any adjustments.

“We have the second-longest constitution in the nation,” State Rep. Rhonda Baker said at Tuesday’s Yukon Legislative Breakfast. “There’s so much in there already we have to follow. This would just be in addition.”

Passage of S.Q. 802 would effectively expand Medicaid to adults age 18-65 with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level under the Affordable Care Act. Oklahoma is among states that have not expanded their Medicaid programs to include low-income working adults.

Medicaid is a government program that provides medical insurance to groups of low-income people and individuals with disabilities.

The scary part for Oklahoma lawmakers is that there is no funding mechanism provided in the proposed state question.

“We’re trying to figure out; what are some alternatives?” Rep. Baker said. “Is there something that we can do prior to the state question where we can come up with a funding stream, bring everyone to the table and have an agreement?”

Gov. Kevin Stitt has been working with healthcare and insurance experts to develop a plan that provides a funding source before S.Q. 802 appears on the ballot.

Compromise is needed because hospital administrators are not fans of a “managed care” program, Rep. Baker noted, so state leaders are working with Stitt on alternatives.

“The governor wants to have a plan that he can present very quickly,” she said.

Teresa Gray, president of Integris Canadian Valley Hospital in Yukon, said the Oklahoma Hospital Association supports moving to a “value and outcomes” plan.

“We’ve been preparing for that for a couple years,” Gray said. “In the current arrangement, we get paid if you’re in our hospital period, regardless of if you did really well or you stayed extra.”

Under the value and outcomes plan, hospitals get paid if they have positive outcomes and provide quality care.

DON’T HURT SCHOOLS

A former teacher who represents state House District 60, Rep. Baker said many in the “education community” may not be aware that passage of S.Q. 802 could take state dollars away from schools.

If Medicaid expansion becomes part of the state Constitution, Baker warns about education cuts.

“And that’s very bothersome to me because we’ve worked really hard to try to make some gains in education from the years of cuts we’ve taken,” she said.

“That’s something we should be concerned about. In a lot of ways, we’re still not where we need to be in education. For us to start cutting back in the middle of our gains is pretty problematic, in my opinion.”

Part of the funding source for Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma could be a federal government block grant.

NEW SCHOOL SIGNS

Speaking of schools, YPS Board of Education President Leonard Wells reported at Tuesday’s Legislative Breakfast about new electronic front signs for three schools.

The school board Monday night approved the signs for the new Redstone Intermediate and for Lakeview and Independence – which will become intermediate schools in the 2020-21 school year.

Those three schools will house students in fourth through sixth grades, which sixth grade moving out of Yukon Middle School.

YPS officials are looking to replace signs at all district schools, Wells said.