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Point of view: StittCare riskier than proven Medicaid expansion option

Rep. Andy Fugate
Rep. Andy Fugate

I’m delighted that Gov. Kevin Stitt has embraced Medicaid expansion. It’s about time. In the past decade, Oklahoma sent billions of our federal tax dollars to states that chose Medicaid expansion. But we waited. We hesitated. And sadly, we chose to ignore our neighbors living in poverty. It’s time to use those dollars for Oklahoma’s health care.

However, I am absolutely dumbfounded Gov. Stitt would request those dollars through an untested block grant that limits our federal dollars. Why set a maximum at a time when the economy is doing well? That’s when the need for these dollars is the least. Already, Oklahoma Treasurer Randy McDaniel is reporting a slowing economy. What might work today will surely fail in the next recession when the need grows, but the money doesn’t. Even a minor uptick in poverty will force us to make difficult choices in who gets served — and who doesn’t. Creating any public policy based on a high-water mark is bad. When that policy specifically deals with the health of citizens, it’s irresponsible.

StittCare is based on the flawed notion that Oklahomans don’t work. In reality, the census shows something far different. Of the 550,000 uninsured adults in Oklahoma, almost 400,000 work 32 hours or more per week, but without insurance. When they get sick and miss work, they make less money. Under StittCare, if they are sick and miss a payment, they will lose their insurance — just when they need it most.

The governor’s solution for Oklahoma's rural closing and failing hospitals is simply to redefine a hospital. Oklahomans should not be fooled. This is like replacing a fine steakhouse with a McDonald's. Rural Oklahomans deserve real hospitals, not limited-service McHospitals.

I’m proud of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s work to contain administrative expenses. Recently, OHCA administrator Kevin Corbett told the Legislature we already have managed care — and we spend less than 4% to service it ourselves. The governor’s plan calls for privatized managed care costing an average of 15%. It’s hard to believe the governor will get a better deal than the OHCA provides today.

Finally, StittCare doesn’t even pass state Republicans’ own test. Their primary argument against Medicaid expansion was their fear we would be stuck paying for this. With block grants, Oklahoma pays the bills when the federal money runs out.

In the end, the governor’s plan will go to court. If he loses, we will all pay for it in the end.

Fugate, D-Del City, represents District 94 in the Oklahoma House.