Oklahoma Governor Refuses Expansion Of SoonerCare

Monday, November 19th 2012, 10:12 pm
By: News On 6

In addition to rejecting a state-run healthcare exchange program, Governor Mary Fallin is also refusing to expand Oklahoma's Medicaid program to cover the uninsured, which is another part of the federal healthcare law.

Governor Fallin's decision does not change anything for people already on SoonerCare, which is Oklahoma's Medicaid program.

But the expansion would have added 250,000 Oklahomans to what the governor calls "a massive entitlement program."

Governor Mary Fallin says her decision to not expand SoonerCare comes down to dollars and cents.

"[It] will, in fact, decrease the quality of healthcare across the United States, while contributing to our nation's growing deficit," Fallin said.

11/19/2012 Related Story: Federal Healthcare Act Faces Opposition In Oklahoma

SoonerCare provides healthcare to children under the age of 19, parents with kids under the age of 18, pregnant women, and people who are older than 65 or have a disability.

It's jointly funded by state and federal funds. The state invests about $1.2 billion a year to cover 1,007,395 Oklahomans in the program.

Expanding Medicaid would have cut the state's uninsured population in half, but Fallin said the price tag is simply unaffordable.

"Costing the state of Oklahoma up to $475 million between now and the year 2020, while escalating the annual expenses in subsequent years," Fallin said.

Fallin said covering that cost with the state budget would require cuts to education and public safety or raising taxes.

"It would also further Oklahoma's reliance on federal dollars that may or may not be available in future years," Fallin said.

11/19/2012 Related Story: Oklahomans Split On Healthcare Exchange Decision

Oklahomans already pay to care for the uninsured, according to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

A billion dollars in uncompensated medical expenses gets passed on to families with insurance every year, and the expansion could have cut that bill in half.

But the Governor's office said those savings don't help the state budget, and therefore wouldn't help pay for the larger program.

The Governor said we need to reform Medicaid and she'll be working with lawmakers to do that.

She said expanding Medicaid only adds people without adding change.