The government of Oklahoma and our governor Mary Fallin rejected the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Medicaid expansion, a move many analysts saw as political, but now Oklahoma is facing a $1.3 billion budget crisis. Experts believe that expanding Medicaid and accepting federal money may be the only way to solve the budget shortfall, but will political rivalries keep our state’s government from saving Oklahoma’s healthcare system?
Is Oklahoma Really Going To Expand Medicaid?
The ACA was first enacted to help expand medical coverage to people who had none. The program included an expansion of the Medicaid system, which would offer coverage to people slightly above the federal poverty line, but due to a Supreme Court ruling, the Medicaid expansion was made optional. Since that ruling, 31 states opted into the expansion, but several conservative states, including Oklahoma, chose not to join. However, opting out of the Medicaid expansion has not turned out how some had hoped.
The recent budget crisis here in Oklahoma has seen budget cuts across many state programs, but our state’s Medicaid program is seeing the largest hit. Proposed cuts to Medicaid have been so deep that many facilities will be forced to close in June—which is when the cuts are due to come into effect. Reluctantly, our government is beginning to recognize this problem.
A new policy based on the compromise Indiana struck with the Obama administration would shift 175,000 people off of Medicaid and into private insurance plans subsidized by the ACA. This program would also allow Oklahoma to accept federal funding, which would have the federal government funding 95 percent of SoonerCare until 2020 and then paying 90 percent after. The whole policy shift would be funded by a new $1.50-per-pack tax on cigarettes, but the shift could prevent a 25 percent Medicaid pay out cut that would close hundreds of facilities all over the state.
For people with disabilities, this expansion could mean so much! It could be a way for them to get the insurance they need to pay for the medical treatment that makes their day-to-day lives possible, and it could also close the Medicaid coverage gap. That means fewer people with disabilities will be stuck in limbo while they are trying to get the medical records they need to be approved for Social Security disability benefits.
But will Oklahoma politicians be able to look past partisan politics and save our healthcare system? There are still many people who don’t want to see a Medicaid expansion. To find out who wins, keep following our disability blog.