Oklahoma lawmakers should study Florida Medicaid reforms

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: September 26, 2012
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Because patients can leave one plan for another, providers must keep enrollees happy through top-notch service. There has been some turnover among providers in the reform program — but that's a good thing. Plans that fail to satisfy Medicaid patients are falling by the wayside. On the other hand, the only alternative for those displeased with traditional Medicaid is to go uninsured — take it or leave it.

The Florida reforms were championed by former Gov. Jeb Bush and took effect in five counties in 2006; they are scheduled to go statewide next year. Individuals served through the pilot program reported higher satisfaction than those in traditional Medicaid. More importantly, 64 percent of health outcomes were better for those in the reform pilot. For Florida taxpayers, the Medicaid reforms saved $118 million annually, a sum that could jump to more than $1 billion statewide.

That success shows why Oklahoma lawmakers should take a long, hard look at the Florida model as they grapple with the challenges of Medicaid, especially since these reforms have received support from both the Bush and Obama administrations. Oklahoma's Medicaid spending averages $3,171 per recipient. If our costs were comparable to Florida's reform program, Oklahoma could save more than $700 million per year (in both state and federal dollars).

Those savings could make a big difference for other needs such as schools, roads and public safety, while also giving the poor better medical care.

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