Oklahoma's Republican leadership has repeatedly voiced that the state will not expand its Medicaid program, a key provision of the Affordable Care Act.
Health care experts Thursday recommended that the state take millions of dollars it would have received for Medicaid expansion and use the funds to expand Insure Oklahoma, an established health care program.
“This approach is using the enhanced federal funds, but we believe it is beneficial to Oklahoma because it does it in a way that allows Oklahoma to target and develop a program to meet the specific needs of its population, as well as the objectives of the state,” said Laura Summers, director of state intelligence at Leavitt Partners.
Whether the federal government would approve such a plan is yet to be determined.
The Insure Oklahoma program uses Medicaid and Oklahoma tobacco tax money to help about 30,000 people buy private insurance, but the federal government has denied a waiver that would allow the program to operate. The Insure Oklahoma program is set to expire Dec. 31.
At Thursday's Oklahoma Health Care Authority meeting, Summers and two other health care experts from Leavitt outlined how changing who's eligible to enroll in Insure Oklahoma would work.
Nico Gomez, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO, said Insure Oklahoma is critically important to the health and economy of Oklahoma, and it will take time to assess how the state moves forward.
“The significance of the decisions that will be made should be given their due diligence,” he said in a statement. “I, as well as the staff of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, look forward to working with state leadership in our effort to provide the citizens of Oklahoma access to quality, affordable health coverage.”
Insurance for most
Leavitt Partners, a Utah health care consulting firm, was hired in February to assess how Oklahoma can provide health insurance for more low-income residents at an affordable cost to the state.
In November, Gov. Mary Fallin announced Oklahoma would not expand its Medicaid program, a key provision in the Affordable Care Act, sometimes referred to as Obamacare.
If the state were to expand its program, as many as 200,000 Oklahoma residents would qualify for Medicaid. Fallin said the expansion would be unaffordable, costing the state up to $475 million through 2020.
Instead, she has proposed the state come up with the “Oklahoma Plan.” Leavitt's presentation Thursday included details that could be a part of that plan.
To streamline the state's current Medicaid system, Leavitt Partners also recommended that the Oklahoma Health Care Authority transition currently eligible Medicaid enrollees with incomes above 138 percent of the federal poverty level into buying commercial insurance through the federal health care exchange.