OKLAHOMA CITY - An effort to drop 111,000 Oklahomans from Medicaid coverage in order to save money is drawing criticism this week.
The measure, House Bill 2665, was passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Wednesday.
Despite it passing, Rep. Scott Inman spoke against the measure on the House floor.
"When it comes to what Christ talked about more than anything else in his word, which was 'Stand up and protect the poor,' anytime we try and do that: 'Oh my Lord, we can't do that. That's a bridge too far,'" Inman said.
He spent nearly 11 minutes explaining why this bill was a disgrace.
“It’s 110,000 Oklahomans. I know there’s 3.7 million, so what’s 110,000 people? 80,000 of them are women who have children at home. Many of them may work because they can make up to $9,000. They just can’t afford to work full-time because they’re taking care of their kid and can’t afford daycare. Doesn’t matter. Kick them off. Our values, that bible says 'Kick them off.' Kick them off. 80,000 of that 110,000 are women with children. Kick them off. Those same women, we want to make sure they’ve got those resources to have that child, never ever think about an abortion. And, I’m with you, that’s how I vote but, by God, once that child is born, if the parents don’t have enough money, so be it,” Inman said.
The author of the bill said he’s not trying to cause harm, rather he’s trying to protect one group.
Unfortunately, it comes at the cost of another.
“I would like to see us cope with this in a more humane way than even having to think about taking people off,” said Rep. Doug Cox, M.D., author of HB 2665.
Cox’s bill focuses on those who are considered “able-bodied" and not pregnant, many of whom Inman said are single mothers.
“I don't know how to say this. It's probably the best of all the bad choices,” Cox said.
He said, with the huge budget shortfall, cuts have to be made somewhere.
He sees this bill as a way to save coverage for those most at need: low-income children, low-income pregnant women, the elderly, the disabled and the blind.
He admits the bill will hit single parents the hardest, with the majority of those feeling the impact being single mothers.
While it would remove them from Medicaid, Cox said their children could still receive coverage.
He also points out those individuals would not be cut from other services.
“They'll still have, if they qualify, their rent subsidies, utility subsidies, food stamps, WIC programs,” Cox said.
“We don't have a $1.3 billion hole because these women get health insurance the way they get it,” Inman said.
Inman said this bill is trying to balance the budget on the backs of poor residents.
He points out that the single mothers who are currently covered by Medicaid generally make less than $9,500 a year.
“We think that's immoral. We think, instead of that, they need to look at rolling back tax cuts or some of these tax credits and exemptions they give away to very wealthy corporations and people,” Inman said.
Cox admits, even if it passes, there is little chance the federal government would approve the waiver needed to implement the change.
Still, he said, with our budget crisis, we have to try every option to save money.
“I hope this tough choice will serve as a wake-up call that we, as a legislature, need to step up and show strong leadership. We need to stop the partisan bickering,” Cox said.
One day after the measure passed, the legislature announced another huge budget cut to agencies.