Oklahoma will face more challenges than any other state when more residents become eligible for Medicaid under the new health care law, a recent study shows.
A shortage of primary care doctors is one big reason for the state's anticipated difficulty in handling the surge in new patients, according to The New England Journal of Medicine.
Oklahoma is one of eight states — with Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Nevada, North Carolina and Kentucky — that face the greatest challenges that begin in 2014, the study says.
“In the absence of additional efforts, the demand for care by newly insured patients could outstrip the supply of primary care providers in these states,” it says.
The study was handed out at the state Health Board meeting Tuesday.
“In addition to raising taxes, reducing choice and increasing the size of government, the federal health care law shifts costs and Medicaid responsibilities to the states. That's just one of the many reasons the governor is doing everything she can to fight this dangerous and unaffordable law,” said Alex Weintz, spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin.
About 250,000 Oklahomans will receive health care coverage when new Medicaid eligibility requirements launch in 2014, according to an analysis for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.
Oklahoma has reached about 40 percent of its provider capacity. Nearly 729,000 state residents eligible for Medicaid currently see more than 6,700 primary care providers, though more than 2,000 of those are out-of-state doctors under contract, Health Care Authority statistics show.
“Even though our capacity is sufficient now, it is absolutely going to be an issue when we get to 2014,” said Nico Gomez, the authority's deputy chief
Almost 1 million Oklahomans will be on Medicaid at that time, essentially reaching capacity.
That's expected to cost Oklahoma an average of $63 million a year from 2012 through 2020.
Where will that money come from?
“We don't know,” Gomez said.
A joint legislative committee will begin analyzing this summer just how the new federal health care law affects Oklahoma.
The journal study says one reason Oklahoma has so few primary care physicians may be that high rates of uninsured residents and poverty make it harder to attract and retain doctors.
Health authority spokesman Carter Kimble said the effects of the influx may not be so severe.
Figures show the bulk of the new people eligible for Medicaid are predicted to come from Oklahoma City, Tulsa and Lawton, where the patient to provider ratio is 40 to 170 to one; rather than the rural, less populated areas of the state, where the ratio is from 571 to 1,190 to one.