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Oklahoma Hospitals Support Raising Tobacco Tax To Offset Medicaid Cuts

Mike Carter, CEO of the Eastern Oklahoma Medical Center in Poteau, during an April 13, 2016 press conference at the state Capitol.
Jacob McCleland
Mike Carter, CEO of the Eastern Oklahoma Medical Center in Poteau, during Wednesday's press conference at the state Capitol.

Hospital and nursing home administrators urged the Oklahoma legislature Wednesday to increase the tobacco tax by $1.50 per pack of cigarettes as way to stave off a proposed 25 percent cut to the Medicaid reimbursement rate.

They also announced support for a plan to expand the state’s Insure Oklahoma program and accept federal healthcare dollars.

Eastern Oklahoma Medical Center CEO Mike Carter says a cut to the Medicaid reimbursement rate would devastate his hospital.

“Ninety-three percent of those babies are delivered covered by the payer source of Medicaid,” Carter said. “Any cuts will require our closure of our unit, our OB unit, requiring our patients to travel one hour, two hours, to the nearest facility to receive that service.”

Oklahoma Hospital Association president Craig Jones says the tobacco tax increase would generate approximately $185 million per year, and the so-called “Medicaid rebalancing plan” would reduce the number of uninsured in the state by an estimated 30 percent.

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Jacob McCleland spent nine years as a reporter and host at public radio station KRCU in Cape Girardeau, Mo. His stories have appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, Here & Now, Harvest Public Media and PRI’s The World. Jacob has reported on floods, disappearing languages, crop duster pilots, anvil shooters, Manuel Noriega, mule jumps and more.
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