The Edmond Sun


June 7, 2013

BY THE NUMBERS: Medicaid expansion could be good for state

EDMOND — Jan Brewer wants to do it in Arizona. John Kasich wants to do it in Ohio. And Rick Snyder wants to do it in Michigan. But we don’t want to do it here.

Brewer, Kasich and Snyder are three staunchly conservative governors who opposed the Affordable Care Act (commonly referred to as “Obamacare”). Yet all of them want to enact a key provision of the program by expanding their state Medicaid programs to cover adults earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level (for a family of four this is up to $31,321). In exchange for the program expansion, their states would receive billions of federal dollars. In short, these Republican governors are setting aside their principled objection to the law, to implement a provision that makes financial sense for their states.

It makes sense in Oklahoma too, but we still keep saying “no.”

To encourage states to expand their programs the federal government has promised to pay 100 percent of the expansion cost for the first three years, and no less than 90 percent in the future. Thus far, Gov. Mary Fallin has rejected the federal funds and announced that Oklahoma will not be expanding its Medicaid program. The financial consequences of the decision are quite severe.

According to estimates provided by the Kaiser Family Foundation, Fallin’s decision means that Oklahoma will lose out on $8.6 billion of federal funds from 2014-22. Yes, Oklahoma would have to provide some of the funding — estimated at $689 million through 2022 (but not starting until 2017), but the net return is clearly positive.

Still, Fallin insists that Oklahoma cannot afford to fund the expansion. But the real problem isn’t a lack of money, but a lack of will. Each year Oklahoma taxpayers spend more than $45 million in state funds for Insure Oklahoma, a program that is ending this year. By redirecting these funds to expanding Medicaid would cover more than half the annual cost the state needs to provide the expansion. The Insure Oklahoma program currently covers less than 30,000 Oklahomans whereas the Medicaid expansion would cover 180,000 Oklahomans.

But there is even more money. Because the Medicaid expansion would bring in $8.6 billion to the state economy during the next decade, much of it going to Oklahoma health care providers, there would be an economic boost as well. A 2011 study from economists at Oklahoma State University estimated that the Medicaid expansion would create more than 15,000 new jobs and boost state tax collections by $477 million during the next decade.

In short, by redirecting the Insure Oklahoma funding (a program that is ending anyway) and considering the ensuing economic growth, there is more than sufficient funds to cover the Medicaid expansion. But there are even more savings to consider. Currently, state taxpayers spend millions annually because individuals who would be eligible for this Medicaid expansion aren’t getting the health care they need. For example, we spend millions treating adults at state health clinics — health care that could be covered by this expansion. We spend millions on providing treatment (and even incarceration) for mentally ill individuals because they are not receiving the health care they need. Currently, Oklahoma taxpayers cover 100 percent of these costs. If we accepted the Medicaid expansion, for those eligible to be covered the state would pay less than 10 percent of their health care costs thus saving taxpayers millions of dollars annually.

And let’s not forget that state leaders had no difficulty finding money to fund a tax cut that will have a budget impact four times larger than the Medicaid expansion would.

Expanding Medicaid will provide a multi-billion dollar boost to our state economy while providing health insurance to another 180,000 Oklahomans. We can do this. We should do this. We just don’t want to.

Across the country Republicans are recognizing the benefits of accepting these federal dollars to care for their citizens. Each year we wait, is another year we are economically and morally poorer than we should be.

MICKEY HEPNER is the dean of the College of Business Administration at the University of Central Oklahoma. Hepner serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors for The Oklahoma Academy.

Text Only
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Why poverty across the world matters to Americans

    A child starving in South Sudan should matter to Americans. That was the message delivered last week by Nancy Lindborg, whose job at the U.S. Agency for International Development is to lead a federal bureau spreading democracy and humanitarian assistance across the world.
    That world has reached a critical danger zone, with three high-level crises combining military conflict with humanitarian catastrophes affecting millions of innocents in Syria, the South Sudan and the Central African Republic.
    But back to that child.

    April 18, 2014

  • Government leadership complicit in overfilling prisons

    One of the thorniest problems facing any society is the question of what to do with transgressors. Obviously, the more complicated a culture becomes, the more factors come into play in trying to figure out what to do with those who choose not to “play by the rules.”

    April 18, 2014

  • My best days are ones normal people take for granted

    It is a weekend for working around the house. My fiancee, Erin, and I have the baby’s room to paint and some IKEA furniture to assemble. I roll out of bed early — 10:30 — and get into my wheelchair. Erin is already making coffee in the kitchen.
    “I started the first wall,” she says. “I love that gray.” Erin never bugs me about sleeping late. For a few months after I was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings, I often slept 15 hours a day. The doctors said my body needed to heal. It must still be healing because I hardly ever see 8 a.m. anymore.

    April 18, 2014

  • Instead of mothballing Navy ships, give them to our allies

    A bitter debate has raged in the Pentagon for several months about the wisdom of taking the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington out of service to save money. The Washington, at 24 years old a relatively young vessel, is due for a costly refit, a routine procedure that all of the 11 large carriers in service undergo regularly.

    April 18, 2014

  • The pessimist’s guide to grizzly bears and Earth Day

    This coming Friday, to “celebrate Earth Day,” the Walt Disney Co. will release one of those cutesy, fun-for-all-ages, nature documentaries. “Bears” is about grizzly bears.
    The trailer says, “From DisneyNature comes a story that all parents share. About the love, the joy, the struggle and the strength it takes to raise a family.”
    Talk about your misguided “Hollywood values.” I previously have acknowledged a morbid, unreasonable fear of grizzly bears, stemming from a youth misspent reading grisly grizzly-attack articles in Readers Digest. This fear is only morbid and unreasonable because I live about 1,500 miles from the nearest wild grizzly bear. Still. ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Digging out of the CIA-Senate quagmire

    Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voted to declassify parts of its report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The White House, the CIA and the Senate still have to negotiate which portions of the report will be redacted before it is made public. But this is an important step in resolving the ugly dispute that has erupted between the intelligence committee and the intelligence agency.
    The dispute presents two very serious questions. Was the program consistent with American values and did it produce valuable intelligence? And is effective congressional oversight of secret activities possible in our democracy?

    April 15, 2014

  • Los Angeles Times: Congress extend jobless benefits again

    How’s this for irony: Having allowed federal unemployment benefits to run out in December, some lawmakers are balking at a bill to renew them retroactively because it might be hard to figure out who should receive them. Congress made this task far harder than it should have been, but the technical challenges aren’t insurmountable. Lawmakers should restore the benefits now and leave them in place until the unemployment rate reaches a more reasonable level.

    April 14, 2014

  • Many nations invested in Israel

    Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yoram Ettinger recently spoke to a gathering at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning in Oklahoma City. The event began with a presentation by Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, who told the attendee that the  upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover was an occasion for them to embrace the children of God, which is all of humanity.

    April 14, 2014

  • Coming soon: More ways to get to know your doctor

    Last week, the federal government released a massive database capable of providing patients with much more information about their doctors.
    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency that runs Medicare, is posting on its website detailed information about how many visits and procedures individual health professionals billed the program for in 2012, and how much they were paid.
    This new trove of data, which covers 880,000 health professionals, adds to a growing body of information available to patients who don’t want to leave choosing a doctor to chance. But to put that information to good use, consumers need to be aware of what is available, what’s missing and how to interpret it.

    April 14, 2014

  • HEY HINK: Hateful bullies attempt to muffle free speech

    Hopefully we agree it should be a fundamental right to voice criticism of any religion you wish. And you should have the right to sing the praises of any religion you choose. If criticism of religion is unjust, feel free to make your best argument to prove it. If criticism is just, don’t be afraid to acknowledge and embrace it. If songs of praise are merited, feel free to join in. If not, feel free to ignore them. But no American should participate in curbing free speech just because expression of religious views makes someone uncomfortable.

    April 11, 2014


Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

     View Results