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In surprising turnabout, Oklahoma eyes Medicaid expansion

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Despite bitter resistance in Oklahoma for years to President Barack Obama’s health overhaul, many Republican leaders are now embracing a plan to expand Medicaid as they face a $1.3 billion hole in the budget.

The GOP leaders are considering a tobacco tax increase to help fund insurance coverage for more low-income residents.

The expanded coverage would enable the state to tap into billions in federal Medicaid dollars under the Affordable Care Act.

The move, which is supported by Gov. Mary Fallin, would allow Oklahoma to avoid sharp cuts in state funding for the care of indigent patients.

Health officials have warned that hospitals and nursing homes would close if Medicaid reimbursement rates are slashed.

The state faces the deficit because of the oil bust and income tax reductions.