Oklahoma faces challenges in supplying enough primary care doctors to meet health care reform

A new study says Oklahoma is on of the states least prepared for the expected surge of new Medicaid-eligible patients in 2014.
BY SONYA COLBERG scolberg@opubco.com Published: July 13, 2011
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“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 executive.

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.

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