It was a narrow vote—52 to 45—but the Oklahoma House of Representatives has passed a budget and is sending it to Gov. Mary Fallin. The new budget is expected to end the crisis over healthcare in our state, but can we be content with what this budget proposes?
Medicaid Expansion Avoided, But Will People With Disabilities Still Pay The Price?
Last week, we talked about how the bill to raise taxes on cigarettes was rejected, and a proposed expansion to Medicaid was once again put on the backburner. That meant that Oklahoma was looking at a potential 25 percent cut in SoonerCare provider compensation rates. Such a drastic cut would have force doctors, nursing homes, and hospitals all around the state to shut their doors. However, the new budget just passed by the Oklahoma House seeks to avoid those cuts.
Will The New Budget Prevent Medicaid Cuts?
The new $6.8 billion budget will fund several core services throughout the state in 2017. As part of that new budget, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority will receive an $83.8 million increase over its mid-year budget, and though that is expected to lower the pressure on SoonerCare, the program is still expected to cut provider rates by 3 percent. For providers that can’t make ends meet on the current Medicaid reimbursement rate, this 3 percent cut is still a hard pill to swallow, but the alternative would leave the state with very little healthcare options.
Other services have also taken big hits in this budget. The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and common education have all taken 2-5 percent hits, but higher education has suffered the most out of all of these programs. Higher education funds were cut by almost 16 percent, and now Oklahoma students await news on a possible tuition rate hike. The Department of Human Service will also continue to cut its programs, which will come as quite the shock to many Oklahomans with disabilities.
For now, people with disabilities won’t lose their healthcare, but those who need Medicaid to qualify for Social Security Benefits are still caught in the gap, and now many of them might lose the state benefits that help them make ends meet. But, does this mean that Medicaid expansion is still the only hope for many people with disabilities? Keep following our blog to find out, and log onto our Facebook and Twitter to tell us what you think.