Could become first state to scrap Medicaid entirely
AN OKLAHOMA MAN RECENTLY DROVE MORE THAN AN HOUR TO REACH COMMUNITY HEALTH CONNECTION, a federally qualified health center in Tulsa, because he is uninsured, and it was the closest place he could go for diabetes care.
The man, in his early 60s, had been a firefighter. Dr. Sarah-Anne Schumann, medical director of the clinic, told him he should get a routine screening for colon cancer, but he declined.
He told Schumann, “I don’t want you to screen me for colon cancer, because if you find it I don’t have a way to treat it without health insurance.” She knew he had a point. Around that time, the clinic CEO received an e-mail informing him that all state funding to federally qualified health centers was being eliminated, effective immediately. Days later, the state Medicaid program proposed a 25% cut in provider payments.
If approved, that will send even more patients to places like Community Health Connection, which is now fighting to keep its doors open and its employees paid.
Nico Gomez, CEO of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, said the state could become the first to scrap Medicaid entirely in the next few years, leaving about 800,000 low-income Oklahomans without coverage.
But there is good news, Schumann said. A state Senate committee rejected a bill that would have cut Medicaid eligibility to any nonpregnant, able-bodied adult younger than 65, eliminating more than 100,000 beneficiaries. It would have mostly affected single mothers making less than $9,000 a year.
“It’s sad what we have to call good news,” she said.
Oklahoma’s general revenue fund has been depleted by reduced oil and gas production revenue. The state also lost more than $1 billion by shaving the top income tax rate to 5% from 6.65%. Oklahoma is already among the worst states for healthcare access because of high poverty, low insurance coverage rates, and not enough doctors and nurse practitioners. Its health outcomes consistently rank in the bottom five among states in national studies.
While some have suggested an infusion of federal funds through Medicaid expansion, the GOP-led Statehouse is not likely to approve the idea.
The patient said, “I don’t want you to screen me for colon cancer because if you find it I don’t have a way to treat it without health insurance.” DR. SARAH- ANNE SCHUMANN