A former state health commissioner joined Oklahoma House Democrats on Monday in calling on GOP Gov. Mary Fallin and Republican legislative leaders to expand access to Medicaid, the federal-state health care program for the poor.
“This is a moral and ethical issue,” said Dr. Mike Crutcher, who served as state health commissioner from 2003 until 2009.“It is the morally and ethically right thing to do — to strive to provide health care to as many as Oklahomans as is absolutely possible,” said Crutcher, who is director of medical quality at Variety Care, a nonprofit community health center that provides health care to low-income families. “Other people in the world do it. Other states in the Union do it, and we should be able to do it also.”
Fallin decided last year not to expand Medicaid coverage, saying it would be unaffordable, costing the state of Oklahoma up to $475 million between now and 2020, and would also further Oklahoma's reliance on federal money that may or may not be available because of federal fiscal problems.
The federal Affordable Care Act originally required that states, beginning in January, expand Medicaid to cover people younger than 65 with income below 133 percent of the federal poverty level.
But in June, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a part of the health care law that penalized states for not expanding Medicare, which meant states could decide whether to participate.
Consultant report due
The state has hired a consultant to look at ways to provide health care coverage to low-income people.
Among other things, Leavitt Partners, a Utah consulting firm, is looking at an Arkansas plan that would channel federal Medicaid money through private insurers.
Fallin said Monday a report from Leavitt Partners is due in June.
“We're exploring all of our options to see what we want to do,” she said. “An Oklahoma plan will work best in Oklahoma to deliver better access to health care and working on the health of Oklahomans.”
Leavitt Partners has been meeting with hospital and insurance company officials across the state, she said.
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It is the morally and ethically right thing to do — to strive to provide health care to as many as Oklahomans as is absolutely possible.”
Dr. Mike Crutcher,
Former state health commissioner