Tulsa World

Doctors needed on OHCA board

Medicaid not improved with loss of physicians


The recent removal of the only two physicians from the Oklahoma Health Care Authority Board of Directors prioritize­s political power over quality health care coverage.

The OHCA manages the Medicaid program, which is being expanded after voters passed State Question 802 last year. About 25% of Oklahomans are enrolled in the program.

Gov. Kevin Stitt wants to privatize its management but was stopped by lawmakers and the Oklahoma Supreme Court, saying he would need legislativ­e approval to do that.

Oklahoma tried third-party management earlier, resulting in significan­t provider shortages, particular­ly in rural areas. Patients went untreated or were forced to drive long distances to get medical care. It was considered a failure.

The state doesn’t need to repeat history.

Much of the medical community opposes privatizat­ion based on that previous experience and outcomes in other states with privatized management.

Stitt doesn’t appear to have let the idea go.

The model is based on the false assumption that an intermedia­ry between costs and providers will lead to efficiency.

The only way to cut health care costs is to serve fewer residents or reduce services. Both are bad for Oklahomans and the overall health of the state.

The two OHCA board members — Lawton ophthalmol­ogist Dr. Jean Hausheer and Oklahoma City pediatrici­an Dr. Laura Shamblin — were removed without being given a reason after voting to table two administra­tive rules sought by OHCA Director Kevin Corbett.

Those rules appear to be in line with Stitt’s goal of thirdparty management and would wire around the Supreme Court’s decision.

Replacing the members are marketing specialist Susan Dell’Osso and retired oil and gas executive Gino DeMarco, who served as Stitt’s “PPE czar.” DeMarco came under scrutiny after a third-party vendor was paid a $56,000 finder’s fee in the $1.8 million purchase from a Tulsa piano bar owner of medical personal protective equipment that was never received.

We oppose privatizin­g Medicaid. The OHCA has shown good results in managing the program itself, including handling about 170,000 new enrollment­s since July 1. No additional staff has been needed, according to Corbett.

Having enough physicians participat­e in Medicaid is the only way the program works. They are the direct health providers with experience in how effectivel­y the program operates.

Medicaid doesn’t need the hand of a for-profit manager. It needs an oversight board of qualified profession­als who include front-line doctors.

A woman takes part in a Medicaid Matters rally at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City in 2019.
OKLAHOMAN FILE JIM BECKEL,THE A woman takes part in a Medicaid Matters rally at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City in 2019.

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