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Hospitals Want Federal Dollars For Oklahoma's Medicaid Program

State Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, left, speaks to attendees at a presentation by Oklahoma Hospital Association President Craig Jones. Jones and the OHA are recommending the expansion of Insure Oklahoma with money originally intended to expand Medicaid.
Dale Denwalt
/
The Journal Record
State Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, left, speaks to attendees at a presentation by Oklahoma Hospital Association President Craig Jones. Jones and the OHA are recommending the expansion of Insure Oklahoma with money originally intended to expand Medicaid.

When Gov. Mary Fallin rejected federal funds to expand Medicaid, she said the plan would have cost the state millions over the next decade. But the Oklahoma Hospital Association said this week that taking the same money for another purpose would save millions.

Instead of putting the money toward Medicaid coverage, the OHA wants to give it to Insure Oklahoma, a state-run insurance program originally designed for small businesses.

As of January, Insure Oklahoma covered less than 20,000 workers. OHA President Craig Jones told The Journal Record’s Dale Denwalt adopting the plan would put 230,000 Oklahomans in the program.

The premium-assistance program is paid for by workers, employers and a combination of state and federal money. Jones said there are several ways the state might expand Insure Oklahoma, but doing so would put more people on insurance and help keep rural hospitals open. “It would bring in $9.9 billion into the economy over an eight-to-10-year period of time,” Jones said during a seminar Wednesday at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, College of Public Health. What limits the OHA plan is what limits Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. Gov. Mary Fallin rejected expansion, arguing that it would cost Oklahoma in the long run. “We’ve also heard that Oklahoma can’t afford this,” Jones said. “Even though at maximum, the state would put in a dollar and we would get nine dollars back from the federal government.”

Still, it’s a tough sell. At a discussion about the plan on Wednesday, state Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, acknowledged it’s a longshot. He said anything linked to President Obama’s Affordable Care Act will probably draw a rebuke from fellow lawmakers.

Denwalt writes:

“If we called tornado relief ‘Obama relief,’ we would not take it,” said Cox, R-Grove. “Hopefully we can take some federal money to expand Insure Oklahoma; it’s almost playing word games, but that’s the political realism.”

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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
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