Next Oklahoma legislative session may include Medicaid reform

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the state's Medicaid agency, has requested $149 million in additional money on top of its budget request. The growing amount of money needed to administer Medicaid could lead to discussion at the Capitol about how to reform the program.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: November 14, 2013 at 8:46 pm •  Published: November 15, 2013

Gov. Mary Fallin and state lawmakers seem interested in Medicaid reform, the CEO of the state's agency said Thursday.

Nico Gomez, CEO of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, said the interest is somewhat motivated by the authority asking for $149 million in additional funding in its budget request.

“They're very serious about Medicaid reform because they're all looking at the same number,” Gomez said. “They're looking at our budget number, and they're going ‘We can't keep sustaining this growth each year.'”

Alex Weintz, Fallin's spokesman, said the governor's office is always interested in looking at ways to make every government service more cost efficient and effective, which certainly includes Medicaid.

“It's something that we're talking with legislators about over the interim,” he said.

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority administers SoonerCare, Oklahoma's Medicaid program that largely serves low-income children.

About 792,000 Oklahomans, including 511,000 children, are enrolled in SoonerCare.

Last year, the authority requested $80 million in new money in its budget proposal, he said.

In October, the authority learned it will lose about $50 million in federal funding after the federal government recalculated the money Oklahoma should receive to administer Medicaid.

Each year, the federal government re-evaluates the rate it uses to determine the amount of money it gives each state for Medicaid. The rate, known as the Federal Medical Assistance Program, is based on a state's per capita income, and because Oklahoma's economy has improved, the state's rate was lowered, health leaders say. This led to the reduction.

Gomez said at Thursday's board meeting that the loss in the federal money makes up the largest chunk of the $149 million they're requesting.

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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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