Oklahoma's Medicaid provider to seek more funding

AP News
Posted: Dec 03, 2009 10:40 AM

More people are enrolled in Oklahoma's Medicaid program than ever before, but the health care services they receive will likely be cut as officials roll back costs due to a deepening statewide budget shortfall, the program's chief executive said.

During the past year, 825,000 Oklahomans _ 22 percent of the state's population _ received medical help through one of the health care programs administered by the state's Medicaid provider, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, CEO Mike Fogarty told members of a House budget subcommittee that appropriates health care dollars.

"We are setting a record every day," Fogarty said Wednesday.

Enrollment in Medicaid _ which serves the elderly, disabled, and children of low-income families with a combination of state revenue and federal matching funds _ is at an all-time high as more and more people lose their jobs and their health insurance due to poor economic conditions.

"Every month our rolls are going up faster than they've ever gone up before," Fogarty said. "As the economy worsens, more people qualify for the program."

Medicaid enrollment will likely climb if President Barack Obama's health care overhaul plan is passed by Congress, according to the budget committee's chairman, Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, an emergency medical physician at Integris Grove General Hospital.

Among other things, the Obama plan would increase eligibility for Medicaid and allow more uninsured workers to qualify for public health care services, Cox said. But it is unclear whether the federal government or the state would cover the cost of rising Medicaid enrollment.

"That would be a huge unfunded mandate," Cox said. "Each year we pick up more and more because the federal match decreases every year." OHCA's budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 is about $4.4 billion, including $980 million in state dollars.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that 31 million uninsured individuals would receive insurance if Obama's health care bill is enacted.

Oklahoma lawmakers have ordered 5 percent budget cuts for OHCA and other state agencies through June because the economic slowdown and low energy prices have forced a revenue shortfall. The cuts will trim about $110 million off OHCA's budget for the fiscal year ending June 30, including $27 million in state tax revenue, Fogarty said.

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Fogarty said he is recommending the reduction or elimination of several dental, pharmaceutical and medical services that serve thousands of Medicaid recipients. The recommendations must be approved by the OHCA board of directors.

However, he said he will work to avoid an overall reduction in reimbursement rates paid to health care providers.

The agency is seeking $240.5 million in additional state dollars for the fiscal year beginning July 1, largely to maintain its health care services at existing levels. But Cox said state agencies probably will not receive substantial budget increases next year because of the revenue shortfall.

State revenue came in below expectations for the 10th straight month in October, declining $116.1 million, or 24 percent, below the previous year's collections and $83.3 million, or 18 percent, below the state's budget estimate.