The Edmond Sun

May 6, 2013

Fallin sticks by decision to not expand Medicaid

James Coburn
Special to The Sun

EDMOND — A pastoral letter by the Oklahoma Council of Churches to Gov. Mary Fallin and state lawmakers asks Fallin to reconsider her decision to refuse federal funds to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma.

More than 17 percent of Oklahomans were without health insurance in 2010-11, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Fallin agrees it is important to increase better health outcomes in the state, said Alex Weintz, the governor’s communications director.

“Part of that is making affordable health insurance available for all Oklahomans regardless of income,” Weintz said.

Fallin’s budget includes $40 million to meet the Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s current obligations, Weintz said. OHCA must be able to pay for the rising cost of medical treatment, administrative costs, annualizations and maintenance associated with Medicaid.

Fallin shares the same goals with the authors of the letter, Weintz said. The governor’s goals are also informed by her faith just as much as her politics, he added.

“Where they differ is in achieving those goals,” Weintz said. “The governor does not think that President Obama’s health care plan outlines a realistic or workable way of providing affordable health insurance.”

According to the governor’s website, “Because of mandates within the Affordable Care Act, over 60,000 Oklahomans who are already eligible to be on Medicaid but are not currently enrolled will likely enroll in the coming years.”

Federal law requires the state to extend Medicaid benefits to “woodwork eligibles” who choose to enroll in the program, her website states.

State government cannot afford the cost of 200,000 Oklahomans on a government health insurance plan that needs reform, Weintz said of Fallin’s policy. Doing so would provide less money for equally important needs such as education, public safety and other areas of health care, Weintz said.

The Council of Churches letter states that additional costs to the state would be offset by the following savings to the state budget:

• Savings from programs we already pay for as a state (such as costs related to prison health care and substance abuse treatment) that would be replaced by federal dollars;

• Increased revenue from thousands of new health care jobs created by the expansion;

• Savings in emergency care as families and individuals are able to access preventive care and ongoing treatment for chronic illnesses.

“We believe, as Christians, that while we may subscribe to any number of philosophical, ideological or political viewpoints, we must ultimately be guided by love. For, as the Apostle Paul wrote, if we have everything else and do not have love, we are nothing (I Corinthians 13),” the letter stated. | 341-2121