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Leavitt or leave it: Health care consultants recommend ways for Oklahoma to cover more uninsured residents

Leavitt Partners, a Utah health care consulting firm, outlined details Thursday on how Oklahoma will proceed with its health care policy.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: June 27, 2013 at 10:30 pm •  Published: June 27, 2013

The Medicaid enrollees would use federal tax credits to purchase the commercial insurance. This change would transition an estimated 26,000 current Medicaid enrollees to exchange coverage.

Michael Deily, a senior adviser at Leavitt, said Oklahoma should “aggressively” move forward in pushing the federal government to allow the state to expand Insure Oklahoma, a program Oklahoma created in 2004 to bridge the gap in the health care coverage for low-income working adults.

“You could end up with a much more streamlined system, and it's not just a matter of being streamlined, there's a matter of accountability there, (and) it's also a matter of access,” he said. “One of the things that helps increase access is simplicity, people understanding where they need to go in order to obtain insurance. Right now, it's almost impossible for a person out on the street to understand if they're eligible for Medicaid (or) for the exchange.”

Hospitals say yes

The Oklahoma Hospital Association has been lobbying the state to expand its Medicaid program.

Association President Craig Jones said expanding Insure Oklahoma is a step in the right direction.

“It is imperative that we work together to find solutions, as we have done in the past with the Insure Oklahoma program, to use available state and federal funds to lessen the burden of the uninsured on Oklahomans,” he said in a statement.

“Oklahoma hospitals have had a long-standing interest in decreasing the number of uninsured in Oklahoma, toward a goal of ‘coverage for all, paid for by all.' We all know that care of the uninsured is currently paid for by everyone who pays their hospital bill or has insurance.”

About 30,000 Oklahoma adult residents are currently insured under Insure Oklahoma. If the eligibility requirements were expanded, an estimated 187,000 to 275,000 residents could enroll in the program.

Assuming 200,000 people actually enrolled, Leavitt Partners estimated the direct cost for Oklahoma to implement the program would be $850 million over a 10-year period.

But if the Oklahoma Health Care Authority moves people onto the exchange, that would generate savings and bring the cost down. If those savings are taken into account, the cost is closer to $640 million, according to the Leavitt report.

Additionally, Oklahoma could see savings in other areas, according to the report. Expanding the program could result in cost savings with the state's mental health, corrections and public health agencies.

This would mean the net cost over a 10-year period would be $158 million.

Deily said Oklahoma has an opportunity to use a plan to try out innovative ideas with clear financial gain and little risk to the state.

“It really allows you to try out some different things, and if they work, then take them into your basic Medicaid program, as well,” he said.

Contributing: The Associated Press

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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