Oklahoma Republicans are about to test out what hurts them most; taking Obamacare's Medicaid expansion or having to cut services or raise taxes to make up a $1.3 billion budget gap. And with oil money down the drain, even Obama-hating Republicans are willing to take the money and run.
Despite furious opposition by conservative groups, Republican Gov.Mary Fallin and some GOP legislative leaders are pushing the plan, and support appears to be growing in the overwhelmingly Republican Legislature. Details have not been ironed out but the proposal is based on an Indiana program that received federal approval.
Obama called on states to expand their Medicaid insurance for low-income residents as part of his 2014 health overhaul designed to shrink the population of uninsured Americans. Most Democratic-led states did so, along with a handful of GOP states.
But in Oklahoma, even with 20 percent of its population on Medicaid, it's been no way, no how. Until now.
A bust in the oil patch has decimated state revenues, compounded by years of income tax cuts and growing corporate subsidies intended to make the state more business-friendly.
Oklahoma's Medicaid agency has warned doctors and other health care providers of cuts of up to 25 percent in what the state pays under Medicaid.
Oh, and let's not forget that this is the morally correct thing to do here, as well as Oklahoma legislators not really having much of a choice.
"We are nearing a colossal collapse of our health care system in Oklahoma," warned Craig Jones, the president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association, which represents more than 135 hospitals and health care systems in the state. "We have doctors turning away patients. We have people with mental illnesses who are going without treatment. Hospitals are closing, and this is only going to get worse this summer if the Legislature does not act immediately to turn this around."
In the poverty-wracked southeastern corner of the state, where 96 percent of babies in the McCurtain Memorial Hospital are born to Medicaid patients, most health care would end, said hospital CEO Jahni Tapley.
"A 25 percent cut to Medicaid would not put my hospital in jeopardy, because we are already in jeopardy," Tapley said. "A 25 percent cut would shutter our doors for good, leaving 33,000 people without access to health care."
Closing hospitals and nursing homes because you're too prideful to take money from the black president's plan that's designed to give you money kind of makes for really good attack ads against you, just saying.
Have to ask how many people suffered in the meantime.