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Oklahoma faces challenges in supplying enough primary care doctors to meet health care reform

A new study says Oklahoma is on of the states least prepared for the expected surge of new Medicaid-eligible patients in 2014.
BY SONYA COLBERG Published: July 13, 2011

Oklahoma will face more challenges than any other state when more residents become eligible for Medicaid under the new health care law, a recent study shows.

A shortage of primary care doctors is one big reason for the state's anticipated difficulty in handling the surge in new patients, according to The New England Journal of Medicine.

Oklahoma is one of eight states — with Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Nevada, North Carolina and Kentucky — that face the greatest challenges that begin in 2014, the study says.

“In the absence of additional efforts, the demand for care by newly insured patients could outstrip the supply of primary care providers in these states,” it says.

The study was handed out at the state Health Board meeting Tuesday.

“In addition to raising taxes, reducing choice and increasing the size of government, the federal health care law shifts costs and Medicaid responsibilities to the states. That's just one of the many reasons the governor is doing everything she can to fight this dangerous and unaffordable law,” said Alex Weintz, spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin.

About 250,000 Oklahomans will receive health care coverage when new Medicaid eligibility requirements launch in 2014, according to an analysis for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

Oklahoma has reached about 40 percent of its provider capacity. Nearly 729,000 state residents eligible for Medicaid currently see more than 6,700 primary care providers, though more than 2,000 of those are out-of-state doctors under contract, Health Care Authority statistics show.

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