Tuesday, May 24, 2016

OK GO: This Too Shall (Not) Pass

Earlier this month I talked about Oklahoma being in such a budget hole that Republicans were seriously considering taking Obamacare's Medicaid expansion as the state's oil boom turned into an oil bust.  Now however it looks like Republicans would rather close down dozens of hospitals and nursing homes rather than admit they took help from the first black president.

A bill to expand Medicaid eligibility in Oklahoma so that the state could tap into an infusion of federal funding available under the Affordable Care Act appears to be dead, the state's Senate leader said on Monday.

With just one week remaining before lawmakers are set to adjourn, Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said there isn't enough support in the Republican-controlled Senate to approve the plan. A proposed $1.50-per-pack tax increase on cigarettes to help pay for the state's share was defeated in the Oklahoma House last week, and Bingman said that proposal is also likely dead for the year.

"I think part of the (plan) is the expansion of Obamacare, and I think the Senate has been pretty clear for the last six years that we don't want to expand that portion ... because Oklahoma can't afford it," said Bingman, R-Sapulpa.

The plan called for expanding Medicaid eligibility to about 170,000 uninsured low-income Oklahomans and shifting about an equal number of currently Medicaid-eligible pregnant women and children onto the private market. Because of Republicans' bitter resistance to the federal health care law, the plan was dubbed a "rebalancing" instead of an expansion since the overall number of people on Medicaid was projected to stay the same.

If the plan had received federal approval, the federal government would have covered 95 percent of the state's Medicaid costs. That figure would have decreased to 90 percent of the share in 2020.

Without more funding, the state's Medicaid agency has said it would have to impose 25-percent cuts to the reimbursement rates paid to Medicaid providers, a slash so deep that many hospitals and nursing homes have said they would be forced to close their doors.

Oh well.  I guess this is what happens when you put fanatics in charge of your state government. Republicans would rather do nothing and kick out elderly nursing home patients and close dozens of rural hospitals than take taxpayer money to keep even basic health care facilities open.

I guess if you kill off all the poor people, then your Medicaid problem is solved, right?

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