Alienating the underserved
Gov. Mary Fallin denied expansion of the Medcaid program and rejected a state health care exchange under the Affordable Care Act, turning down billions in federal funds. Oklahoma needs health care reforms. Alone, state costs will be immense. Accepting the funds offers a fiscal basis to craft viable solutions. For Republicans, this decision emphasizes a perception of alienating the underserved at the worst time. Expansion could extend coverage to more than 180,000 low-income Oklahomans — including 50,000 children.
Since elected, Fallin opposed Obamacare, but stepping back and using available funds offers opportunity. What are the options and plan? I hope the program isn't being rejected primarily for political reasons. Regardless, the effect is polarizing. Unintentionally, too many believe they don't count. The governor cited “unmanageable costs for Oklahoma.” This points to a bigger, ongoing issue: Oklahoma has more than 600,000 uninsured at an annual cost of $1 billion. Hospitals will bear added costs.
When Fallin and then-House Speaker Kris Steele accepted, then inexplicitly refused, $54 million of federal funds for an exchange, it foretold this decision. The rhetoric of private and public support offered as a prospect to fund an exchange evaporated. Did Fallin roll the political dice assuming Romney would win the White House and the law would be overturned? This conviction clouded a broader focus. Partisan politics can't trump the shared care of citizens. The specter of prior decisions may have fueled this reaction.
Phil G. Busey Sr., Oklahoma City
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