OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The top physician in Oklahoma and the state’s leading health groups filed a motion with the Oklahoma Supreme Court requesting an injunction be issued to halt Gov. Kevin Stitt’s effort to privatize the state’s Medicaid program.
The Oklahoma State Medical Association, Oklahoma Osteopathic Association, Oklahoma Society of Anesthesiologists, American Academy of Pediatrics—Oklahoma Chapter and the Oklahoma Dental Association are all plaintiffs seeking the injunction, which would put the contracting process in Gov. Kevin Stitt’s effort to revamp Medicaid on hold until the State Legislature can review and approve the major change, according to an OSMA news release.
“Our request of the court is about process,” said George Monks, M.D, OSMA President and the top physician in the state. “At this point, the Oklahoma Legislature has not voted on managed care, let alone funded it. We simply want to give our elected officials an opportunity before the state takes such far-reaching action.”
Stitt announced his plan to revamp the state’s Medicaid program on Jan. 29. His plan is a managed care program that will be known as SoonerSelect.
Selected managed care organizations (MCOs) include Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Complete Health, Humana Health Horizons and UnitedHealthcare – each established in the state and serving Oklahomans. Stitt’s office estimates 1,500 new jobs will be created.
Stitt said the new program will improve health care outcomes for Oklahomans.
Kevin Corbett, Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO, said the contracts will begin when they start the program, which they’re hoping will be on Oct. 1, 2021.
The OSMA news release states that while supporters of Stitt’s plan – referred to in the news release as a “scheme” – will save the state money, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority has not yet provided details on how outsourcing services to for-profit companies will save Oklahoma more money than one of the most efficient agencies in the state.
“We all want to ensure our tax dollars are used as effectively and efficiently as possible,” said Todd Beasley, D.O., president of the Oklahoma Society of Anesthesiologists. “Unfortunately, we have yet to hear a good explanation for why taking billions of dollars from an agency that currently runs at less than 5 percent overhead and giving it to for-profit companies with 15 percent or more in administrative costs makes sense.”
OSMA strongly opposes outsourcing Medicaid to private vendors, but the organization’s pursuit of an injunction against Stitt’s plan “is solely about the process and the need to be good stewards of state dollars,” according to a previous OMSA news release.
“Every state taxpayer should be concerned,” said George Monks, M.D., president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association. “Do we want to allow unelected agency boards and commissions to potentially put the state on the hook for billions of dollars in future spending without discussion and approval by the legislators who must ultimately approve the funding? We are simply asking the Court to put the process on hold until the legislature can decide if this is a proper path forward.”
Nine state senators sent a letter to Stitt, asking him to rethink his plan to enter into a managed care contracts. Sen. Rob Standridge was among them.
“It’s one of the worst ideas both in healthcare and financially that I could ever imagine the state making. It’ll be a multibillion dollar mistake and it will harm patients as a result,” Standridge said.
The Oklahoma Dental Association came out against the plan last Thursday.
“Managed care, farming out the health care decisions of our most vulnerable citizens, to an out-of-state, for-profit insurance company is absolutely not the answer,” Lynn Means, executive director of the Oklahoma Dental Association, said. “This is an extremely expensive change to the way our state delivers healthcare. We’re in the middle of a pandemic, it’s a dangerous time to make such a colossal change.”
Means said an attempt at managed Medicaid failed in the 1990s.
“We tried this in the 90s, and it was a complete failure. We had about a thousand providers of Medicaid, dental providers across the state and when they moved to managed care, over the years…we were down to less than 100 providers in the entire state,” Means said.
The health groups also worry about the impact outsourcing SoonerCare could have on patients and their ability to have access to quality medical and dental care, according to the news release.
“As a rural physician, I am concerned that moving toward privatizing Medicaid services will have a disproportionate impact on rural patients,” said Oklahoma Osteopathic Association President Richard Schafer, D.O. “Our rural communities represent some of the state’s most at-risk patients and we believe this scheme will lead to reduced access to care for our patients who need it the most.”
Dwight Sublett, M.D., president of the American Academy of Pediatrics—Oklahoma Chapter, expressed similar concerns.
“Oklahoma has been down this road before. Managed care was a disaster for our pediatric population, to the point that the state ultimately scrapped the plan entirely,” Sublett said. “There are many things we can do to improve coordination of care and provide better outcomes, but outsourcing the health care of our state’s children to profit-driven companies is not the way to do it.”
Health officials say state lawmakers must ultimately weigh in on the issue.
“We welcome the opportunity to have this discussion with our lawmakers,” Monks said. “We are simply asking the Court to recognize that the Legislature is the appropriate venue for these kinds of decisions before the state moves forward with billions of dollars in spending.”