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Oklahoma Medicaid agency braces itself for potential budget cuts

Leaders of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Oklahoma’s Medicaid agency, discussed at the agency’s board meeting Thursday what the agency might cut from its budget if the state Legislature doesn’t approve a budget increase for the next budget cycle.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: May 8, 2014

The state’s Medicaid agency is exploring whether it will cut provider rates and other services if the agency does not receive the budget it requested from the state Legislature for the coming fiscal year.

Leaders of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority discussed at Thursday’s meeting a range of options it might have to take, including decreasing services and cutting provider rates, if the Oklahoma Legislature does not fully fund its budget request.

“What makes this a very difficult conversation is — there’s a lot of options and a lot of work still left to be done,” authority CEO Nico Gomez said. “So there’s still some level of detail that needs to be processed as we go through and ask, ‘Are there unintended consequences to our actions that we aren’t considering?’”

If the Oklahoma Health Care Authority receives the same budget it did last year, it might have to cut provider rates between about 6 percent and 7 percent, decreasing the amount of money that it reimburses medical professionals for the health care services they provide to some of Oklahoma’s poorest residents.

If the agency receives a 5 percent budget reduction, it might cut provider rates between 12 percent and about 14 percent. Gov. Mary Fallin said in her State of the State address that some state agencies could see up to a 5 percent cut.

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority administers SoonerCare, the state’s Medicaid program that provides health care services to low-income children and some adults. About 850,420 Oklahomans, the majority of them children, are enrolled in SoonerCare.

Even if the Oklahoma Legislature approves the same amount of money as last year for the state’s Medicaid agency budget, the agency still may have to cut the amount of money it pays doctors and other medical professionals to provide care to some of Oklahoma’s poorest residents.

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority has requested about $1 billion from the state Legislature for its 2015 fiscal year budget. That includes a request for an additional $90 million.

Part of the $90 million the agency is requesting is to make up for a loss in federal funding. The agency will lose $50 million in the money that the federal government provides the state to administer Medicaid.

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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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