As more Republican governors, including New Jersey's Chris Christie and Florida's Rick Scott, decide to expand Medicaid coverage, Oklahomans continue to think about how to best reform our own Medicaid system. Complicated arguments have been made in opposition to Medicaid expansion, but the economic benefits that expansion would bring to Oklahoma are clear and simple.
By devising an Oklahoma plan that uses expansion money, we can recapture federal tax dollars and use them to control the cost of health care and enhance the access to and the quality of care. The funding to cover the additional 17 million uninsured people nationwide and 180,000 in Oklahoma has already been allotted. The allotment is drawn from the federal taxes Oklahomans pay. In short, it is Oklahoma taxpayer money.
If Oklahoma doesn't find a way to incorporate its tax dollars into a state plan, Oklahoma taxpayers will cover the cost of expansion in New Jersey, Florida, Ohio, Arkansas, Arizona and many other states, reducing their health care costs and providing their uninsured residents with health care.
If we don't use this federal money, Oklahoma's Medicaid costs will increase, costing the state an extra $332 million. The state is turning down $8.6 billion over 10 years that would help Oklahomans get the health care they need and keep them out of overcrowded emergency rooms and stop shifting their unpaid costs to employers and the privately insured.
The hospitals we run will lose millions of dollars needed to keep the doors open, the patients cared for and the employees paid. We can't bear the cost of so many uninsured alone — it will be detrimental to our businesses, our communities and Oklahoma's economy.