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Lawmakers oppose Medicaid expansion plan

At least two members of the Canadian County delegation to the state Capitol said this week that they cannot support expansion of Medicaid in Oklahoma.
State Reps. Jay Steagall and Denise Crosswhite Hader said they cannot get behind a proposal that could add thousands of low-income families to the state’s Soonercare program.
“I am not for socialized medicine, and I am not going to support any legislation that socializes medicine. I am not going to support any legislation that straight up expands Medicaid. I know we have families that need insurance coverage, but there are other ways,” Steagall said following a legislative breakfast that was sponsored by the Yukon Chamber of Commerce.
Steagall, along with Crosswhite Hader, said much of their concerns revolve around funding the expansion.
The federal government has said it will pay for 90% of the cost, leaving the states to fund the other 10%.
However, both lawmakers said there is a concern that the federal government could back out of the funding agreement, leaving the state to foot the entire bill.
It’s happened before, said Crosswhite Hader.
She said the federal government agreed to help fund the addition of law enforcement officers at the county level, but then failed to provide the promised funding, forcing the counties to pay the entire bill, or to lay off employees.
“That’s my same concern with expanding something like this without clarity. Getting people used to it, then us not having the money to do it,” she said.
A petition is currently being circulated in hopes of getting the proposed Medicaid expansion on a ballot next year.
The lawmaker said that proposal brings concerns, as well.
Crosswhite Hader points to the medical marijuana question, which was approved 18 months ago;.
“My concern, just like the state question on medical marijuana, and just like we have expressed here, is when it’s passed by the people, it was not clear,” she said.
That includes the state Legislature’s working groups that were supposed to create concise laws.
Even they couldn’t agree, she said.
“When you do a state question, it is not as precise as statutes a lot of the time. So, I am concerned about what kind of response you might get,” Crosswhite Hader said.
The Republican Caucus is scheduled to meet this weekend. Both lawmakers said Medicaid expansion will be discussed.
But, it is unlikely that it will get much support. While the lawmakers said they couldn’t support expansion, Dr. Alecia Hanes with Yukon Pediatrics urged them to reconsider.
“I can’t tell you how many kids are denied care because Medicaid is not available because we don’t take the money,” she said.
Hanes pointed out that Oklahoma already sends money to the federal government for the program, but isn’t receiving the money back. It is going to other states.
“If you look at all the other states, we are one of the few that doesn’t take that money back. We don’t have the money to use,” Hanes said.
Because Oklahoma hasn’t expanded its program, more people utilize emergency rooms or go without care.
“I’ve had patients die. I’ve had kids die because they couldn’t get Medicaid and they were denied treatment,” she said. “They are limiting what we can do.”
Steagall said there are other options, such as has been done in Chickasha at Grady Memorial Hospital.
There, the community passed a local sales tax to help fund the hospital and to make sure those who need care can receive it.
“The problem with Medicaid expansion is that it puts the state on the hook for covering the federal part of the obligation should they decide to pull that money away. We talk about what we can and can’t afford. We can’t afford to cover the other 90% and put us (Oklahoma) on the hook for 100% of the cost of expansion. We don’t have the money for that,” Steagall said.
In addition, it could mean putting some families in a worse position by offering them insurance coverage and then pulling it away.
“This is a huge expense and a huge ball of wax that has to be unraveled before we can have a legitimate discussion about the financial side of it,”Steagall said.

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