Nursing homes concerned about Senate health plan

OKLAHOMA CITY - Healthcare providers across the state are voicing their concerns as lawmakers in Washington, D.C. work to pass new legislation that would replace the Affordable Care Act.

The Oklahoma Association of Healthcare Providers said the Senate's plan would make a number of negative changes, particularly to Medicaid.

"We're very sensitive to what Medicaid does and how they pay," said Nico Gomez, president and CEO of the OAHCP. "This is going to have implications not only to our loved ones who rely on Medicaid but, financially, to the state in the years to come."

At issue is what some perceive as a "cut" to how much the federal government pays through Medicaid. Technically, the government would continue to increase its Medicaid spending while eventually capping the amount it pays. But, the increases in Medicaid spending would be less than estimated increases in healthcare costs.

"What that means for the state of Oklahoma is they're actually going to shift those funds, what it costs to provide the care on the Medicaid program from the federal ledger to the state ledger," Gomez said. "Are the people who need those nursing homes, are they going to be able to afford to get that access?"

And, Gomez wonders, will the state be able to foot what could be an increased bill? If nursing homes are missing $132 million, he said, the state could have to cherry pick from other agencies and services to make up for it, meaning the effects will be widespread.

Others, like the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, said the state already has a problem when it comes to funding Medicaid with money that should go to other agencies.

"The current status quo for our medical system is unsustainable," said Jonathan Small of the OCPA. "Changes have to take place to our Medicaid programs or our most vulnerable are going to be in danger."

Small said changes to Medicaid would give states more flexibility in where they spend.

"One size does not fit all," he said. "We have to see flexibility allowed to states."