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Oklahoma U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn warns Gov. Mary Fallin against Medicaid expansion

In a letter to Gov. Mary Fallin, U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, says Oklahoma shouldn't expand its health care program for the poor, despite federal government's promise to pay new costs for three years.
by Chris Casteel Published: October 23, 2012

— Sen. Tom Coburn warned Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday against expanding the federal-state health care program for the poor, saying greater eligibility for Medicaid could cost taxpayers more, crowd out private insurers and reduce the quality of health care.

In a letter to the governor, the Muskogee Republican said that focusing on managing the state's current program, SoonerCare, rather than expanding it, would be more “responsible and compassionate.”

The expansion of Medicaid eligibility to those with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level was part of the 2010 health care law. Under the law, the expansion was mandatory.

However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that the federal government couldn't force states to expand Medicaid as a condition for participating in the program.

Some states, including Texas, have come out against expanding the program, while others have announced they would increase eligibility.

In Oklahoma, the Legislature and governor would have to approve an expansion. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has said he would approve repealing the health care law if elected, though repeal would have to clear both houses of Congress.

Alex Weintz, a spokesman for Fallin, said Monday, “The governor's office has received the letter. Governor Fallin appreciates and values Senator Coburn's input. As she has said in the past, the governor does not plan to announce any decision regarding Medicaid expansion until after the election. She does, however, share Senator Coburn's concern that any expansion could result in additional costs to taxpayers and to the state of Oklahoma.”

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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