Oklahoma just dodged an eminent healthcare crisis unlike any other in the entire country. We were looking at potential cuts of up to 25 percent in our Medicaid programs. Ultimately, shifting in the state budget minimized those cuts, but at what cost?
No Medicaid Expansion For Oklahoma
One of the possible solutions to Oklahoma’s healthcare crisis was an expansion of Medicaid. Such an expansion would have led to federal funding for 95 percent of Soonercare—Oklahoma’s Medicaid program. However, state lawmakers chose to shift funding in the budget and minimize cuts to Soonercare to around 3 percent, but other state programs still bear the brunt of the shifts.
Oklahoma’s disability services and higher education programs have seen their budgets slashed, something many experts say wouldn’t have been necessary if politicians had proceeded with plans to expand Medicaid. Next year, Oklahoma’s lawmakers will once again be behind the eight ball as they determine what state services will be cut as they try to make up for an absence of federal Medicaid dollars. This will leave Oklahomans with disabilities scrambling to make ends meet, and it will probably worsen where Oklahoma ranks in overall health when compared to the rest of the country. Right now, The United Health Foundation ranks Oklahoma number 45.
Why Did Louisiana Expand Medicaid?
The state that ranks at the bottom of the United Health Foundation’s list is Louisiana, and the people aren’t happy about it. Their new governor—John Bel Edwards—immediately signed an executive order that started the process of expanding Medicaid in Louisiana. More than 200,000 state residents have signed up already, and though the expansion isn’t expected to improve the health of people who already have insurance, the spike in new people with expanded healthcare is expected to improve the state’s overall well-being.
This incredible turn around in Louisiana was made by an ever worsening economic situation caused by the floundering energy market. Will it take such an economic crisis to convince Oklahoma lawmakers to make a move on expansion? What state services could be cut next year in order to keep expansion away? Will people with disabilities be able to weather new cuts to these vital programs? Keep following our blog and tell us what you think on our Twitter and Facebook pages.