Last month, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) announced a 25 percent provider rate reduction to Oklahoma’s Medicaid program because of expected cuts due to the state’s budget shortfall. The Authority then proposed the “Medicaid Rebalancing Act of 2020” to avoid rate reductions, proposing that state lawmakers pursue a federal waiver to access federal funds though the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare.
The OHCA’s “rebalancing” plan is a clear attempt to expand Medicaid eligibility and to access federal dollars under Obamacare, while avoiding two politically toxic words in Oklahoma: Medicaid Expansion. Unfortunately, this plan still expands Obamacare in Oklahoma, entangling our state to unsustainable federal funding and increasing the burden on future state budgets.
The OHCA’s proposal seeks to remove the Medicaid eligibility of 175,000 pregnant women and children and move them to federally-subsidized commercial accounts on the Obamacare exchange. These individuals would face increased premium costs and a failing exchange system.
In addition, this plan would expand government dependency in our state, expanding Medicaid eligibility to hundreds of thousands of able-bodied adults, regardless of their work-status. While proponents claim only 175,000 individuals would apply for the program, but the number that would become eligible is much greater. This eligibility expansion would change Medicaid in Oklahoma from a safety-net for our most vulnerable citizens to a new entitlement for able-bodied adults.
Even though we face a tough budget shortfall in Oklahoma, we can address our funding issues without expanding Obamacare in our state and leaving generations to pay for hastily-designed short-term fixes.