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Health Care Authority proposes plan to avoid deep Medicaid cuts

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OKLAHOMA - It’s a scenario some say would be devastating for health care in our state - a proposed deep cut in provider rates for those who treat Medicaid patients.

Integris Baptist officials just announced on Thursday they may have to lay off employees, partly because of this Medicaid provider rate cut.

But, now, the CEO of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority is proposing a plan that could possibly keep this rate cut from going into effect.

“It’s a very catastrophic and very scary situation, and we’re hoping to avoid it,” said Nico Gomez.

Gomez said the state has to take action.

“We cannot sustain the course we’re on,” Gomez said.

Gomez had previously announced, because of state funding reductions, they would have to make a 25 percent-rate cut to Medicaid providers.

That could mean many doctors would stop seeing Medicaid patients because they couldn’t afford to.

Gomez has proposed a plan to state leaders he said could avoid this scenario.

“It’s what I’m calling the Oklahoma Medicaid Rebalancing Act of 2020, a four-year plan that stabilizes the Soonercare, Medicaid rates, that reduces the number of uninsured,” Gomez said.

The plan would get thousands of uninsured Oklahomans signed up for the state run insurance plan, Insure Oklahoma.

And, thousands more already on Medicaid would be transferred into private insurance plans.

They would get help with their premiums through tax credits.

“We’re going to be able to qualify for $900 million federal dollars to do that,” Gomez said.

The state would have to come up with another $100 million to fund this, but Gomez has a plan for that, as well.

“In maybe the form of a cigarette tax increase.  $1.50 per pack was proposed earlier in session, and I think we oughtta give that serious look,” Gomez said.

We’re already seeing the effects of budget cuts on rural hospitals.

On Thursday, Memorial Hospital in Frederick closed its doors for good.

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority chairman of the board is hoping Gomez’s plan will work.

“Two years from now, if we don’t do something, there’s a possibility that we wouldn’t have a Medicaid program in the state of Oklahoma,” said Ed McFall.

“This just can’t happen.  I don’t know any other way to say it,” said Chuck Skillings, president of St. Anthony Shawnee Hospital.

Skillings said 7 out of 10 babies they deliver there are Medicaid babies.

“There’s not an alternative. And, that’s why it’s essential that these changes, these reductions not happen. We’re the last hospital east of Oklahoma City still delivering babies,” Skillings said.

Gomez presented his plan to Governor Mary Falling and legislative leaders at the capital on Thursday.