Medicaid cuts may affect care in Oklahoma

BY JULIE BISBEE Modified: February 12, 2010 at 6:34 am •  Published: February 12, 2010
1 m
illion from the agency’s budget. The agency must file a balanced budget report by next week. Cutting $12.1 million from the Health Care Authority’s budget means a loss of more than $32 million in federal matching funds.

"We have been directed to cut the budget. We have no recourse,” board member Tony Armstrong said.

"It will jeopardize a network we have worked to establish in Oklahoma to provide care to a needy population. Our hands are tied. We don’t control the purse strings. We don’t even know where the purse is now.”

Victim of tight budget
Other cuts that were approved as part of the budget reduction included reductions in payments for emergency tooth extraction for adults, reduced payments to kidney dialysis centers, and reduced payments for diabetic supplies.

The board decided against cuts to programs that pay for circumcisions for newborns on Medicaid. That change would have saved the authority $108,662 this fiscal year.

Last year the agency paid for nearly 10,000 circumcisions.

Gov. Brad Henry said the reimbursement rates were an unfortunate consequence of the tight budget year.

"I don’t want to see medical professionals through the state deny Medicaid patients, and I urge them not to,” Henry said. "I hope they understand that this a historic budget cut. It’s not good to lose federal dollars. We hate to cut dollars where we lose federal dollars, but we’re to that point.”


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Cuts worry advocates
Advocates for people with mental illness are concerned about a cost-cutting measure that will go next month before the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

The proposal would create a tier system for a group of drugs called atypical antipsychotics. Medicaid patients would have to try the cheapest medication first, a generic, even if a doctor prescribed a more expensive brand-name drug.

If the medication fails, a patient can move up the tier system and try the next cheapest drug.

Advocate Paul Davis said that could be dangerous because if a drug fails, the patients may become violent or suicidal. He said newer and more expensive drugs work quicker and have fewer side effects.

Some law enforcement officials also are concerned about the change.

Stacey Puckett, director of the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police, said officers will be responding to more mental health crisis calls.

"We are putting people at risk, law enforcement, clients, family members and the community as a whole,” she said. "Those dollars (saved) aren’t just dollars. Those are human beings we are sending further into the darkness of mental illness.”

The Drug Utilization Board, a recommending group to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, has approved the change. The next authority meeting is March 11 in Oklahoma City.

Susan Simpson, Staff Writer

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