The motor in Aracely Baeza’s wheelchair recently went out, a repair that would have cost Baeza and her family hundreds of dollars they didn’t have.
Thanks to help from the state’s Medicaid program, Baeza, who has congenital muscle dystrophy, was able to get a new motor and continue living an independent life.
Baeza, 23, spoke before the Oklahoma Health Care Authority board at a special meeting Tuesday, explaining that the provider cuts the board planned to vote on would affect people like her.
“Not only is it cutting money — it’s also cutting independence for people like myself,” said Baeza, who recently graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a public relations degree.
Board members told a full room of attendees that they didn’t have much choice and voted unanimously to cut provider rates by 7.75 percent. The provider rate cut will save the state of Oklahoma an estimated $48 million.
“These are some of the most difficult decisions we’ve made in the 21 years I’ve been here,” board chairman Ed McFall said. “... We don’t like making these cuts any better than anybody else does. These are the most draconian cuts that we’ve ever made since I’ve been with this agency.”
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Tuesday’s vote comes after the authority received nearly the same amount of money from the state that it did during the last fiscal year. The Legislature also gave the agency $48 million in the 2014 fiscal year to help with expenses for the next fiscal year.
The provider rate cuts were one of the budget cuts the agency had to make after learning that they would receive about $50 million less in federal money to administer the state’s Medicaid program. Because Oklahoma’s economy has improved, the federal government will allocate Oklahoma less money for Medicaid.
The rate cuts will not apply to certain services, including emergency transportation, long-term care facilities and private-duty nursing.
However, they will affect more than 20,000 Medicaid providers, including physicians across the state, according to state Health Care Authority provider data.
Former Sen. George Miller, an authority board member, said the board and the authority will closely monitor the impact of the budget cuts and make any changes they can in the future, especially if more money becomes available.
“I will say this for the Legislature,” Miller said. “They used some very unique and innovative ways to restore our appropriation to what it was last year, but last year’s appropriation will not cut it this year because of a massive reduction in federal matching.”
Contributing: Warren Vieth, Oklahoma Watch