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Health Care Authority reduces reimbursement rates for providers

OKLAHOMA CITY - The Oklahoma Health Care Authority has voted to reduce reimbursement rates for its providers.

The vote came exactly two weeks after Gov. Mary Fallin line-item vetoed a budget involving the use of one-time cash and cuts to dozens of agencies across the state.

Rather than implementing a 9% reduction rate across the board for medical care and a 4% rate for nursing facilities, the board passed a 6% reduction for medical care and 1% for nursing facilities Friday.

Carrie Evans, chief financial officer for OHCA, says the rate reductions are due to the revenue Oklahoma Health Care Authority lost from the cigarette tax being ruled unconstitutional and not being fully funded during the Legislative Special Session. The fee was expected to generate $70 million; however, they were allocated $23 million from the special session.

"We are required by the federal government to monitor access and as we implement these cuts," said Evans. "If we see that we are no longer able to recruit providers and maintain providers which then impacts our access to care to our members, then we’ll have to evaluate that."

Nico Gomez is president of the Oklahoma's Association of Healthcare Providers, a trade association for state nursing homes. He urged the board to postpone the cuts.

According to Gomez, there are about 300 nursing homes in Oklahoma and all but a dozen partner with the Healthcare Authority. He says they're "very dependent" on what Medicaid helps pay.

"Some of these folks do not have families anymore. We have to understand that they don't have better options. If a nursing home closes, they may be moving across the state of Oklahoma to find a bed that's open," explained Gomez. "If you're not saving right now for your long term care, you're too late. You've got to really consider, because the state's not going to be in a position to take care of you when you get older."

Like Gomez, Craig Jones of the Oklahoma Hospital Association asked the board to consider the long-term effects of the reduction.

"If I may quote the Governor, she says we must immediate health and human services cuts and provide time for the legislators to come back and approve revenue proposals that provide a permanent fix," Jones told the board Friday. "To look at an additional 6% cut, just means that hospital services are going to have to be further reduced, if not, eliminated totally."

Both reductions in reimbursement rates would take effect Jan. 1, 2018.