Oklahoma Watch: Two sides to the question of expanding Medicaid in Oklahoma are presented

Excerpts of comments by Gov. Mary Fallin to Oklahoma Watch are added to excerpts of an article by David Blatt, director of Oklahoma Policy Institute.
Oklahoman Published: January 27, 2013
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In their words

Two sides to the question of expanding Medicaid in Oklahoma are presented

Excerpts of comments by Gov. Mary Fallin to Oklahoma Watch:

Oklahoma has a long tradition of investing in the health needs of our citizens. In Fiscal Year 2013 alone, the state spent $2 billion on Health and Human Services, supporting programs like Medicaid, Medicare, health clinics, mental health treatment and other health initiatives. Together that spending accounted for almost one third of our total state budget. As governor, supporting our health care and mental health programs is a priority of mine, which is why I will propose a substantial increase in funding to health-related initiatives in my next executive budget.

In the last year, it has become clear that many of our health improvement programs are working. The state has thankfully moved from 49th to 43rd in health rankings. While we still have much work to do, our focus on improving the overall health of our citizens and our financial commitment to health related services is moving the state in the right direction.

Much of this progress can also be attributed to the many Oklahomans who choose to work in the fields of health care or mental health services. One of these individuals is my aunt Dorthea Copeland, a wonderful lady who has spent much of her career dedicated to helping other Oklahomans. We are blessed to have many caring, compassionate and professional individuals like her working hard to help their neighbors.

While all of us would like to do more to help low-income Oklahomans get better access to affordable health care, the way President Obama has proposed to do so — through a massive expansion of Medicaid — is unaffordable and unworkable. The state of Oklahoma has rejected this plan for three reasons:

First, it is unaffordable for the state. According to a report from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, the proposed expansion of Medicaid would result in a $689 million increase in state Medicaid costs between 2013 and 2022. Expanding Medicaid as proposed by the president would mean that a huge sum of money would be diverted from other priorities, like education and public safety, as well as existing health care programs.

Second, President Obama's plan is unaffordable for the country at a time when we are already experiencing a long-term spending crisis. The same Kaiser Commission report shows Medicaid expansion would cost the federal government $800 billion nationally. This comes at a time when it is universally acknowledged that Washington must make large cuts in government spending.

Finally, the Medicaid expansion offers no real reform to a flawed and inefficient system. Expansion should be tied to more flexible policies that reduce waste and fraud.

Moving forward, my administration will continue to support an “Oklahoma Plan” that focuses on improving the health of our citizens, lowering the frequency of preventable illnesses like diabetes and heart disease, and improving access to quality and affordable health care.

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