OKLAHOMA CITY — A bill proposed by an Oklahoma lawmaker would eliminate a state program known as “Soon-to-be-Sooners” which provides healthcare services to pregnant women.
Senate Bill 40 authored by Sen. Paul Scott, R-Duncan was filed Tuesday afternoon. According to the bill, it directs the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority to “repeal or amend certain rules”.
“Beginning January 1, 2020, the program and benefits provided pursuant to 317: 35-22-1 of the Oklahoma Administrative Code, also known as the ‘Soon-to-be-Sooner’ program shall cease,” the bill reads.
The services provided by the program include ultrasounds, doctor’s appointments, and check-ups. Those covered for pregnancy-related benefits under Soon-to-be-Sooners (STBS) retain eligibility to the end of the pregnancy. To qualify, women must fall within certain income guidelines.
According to the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority, pregnant women fall into three categories:
1. Citizens up to 138 percent Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Full Medicaid benefits for pregnancy related services and all other qualified Medicaid benefits.
2. Citizens 138 percent to 185 percent FPL. Limited pregnancy benefits for the unborn child (only) under the CHIP program. No other services.
3. Undocumented Immigrants up 0 to 185 percent FPL. Limited pregnancy benefits for the unborn child (only) under the CHIP program. No other services.
Katelynn Burns is with the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority, which oversees the program. According to Burns, STBS is funded through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
If the Soon-to-be-Sooners program is eliminated, the agency could lose $91 million in federal funding.
“CHIP funding provides funding sources for other programs as well, but in order to receive that funding, the Healthcare Authority has to comply with CHIP rules and guidelines,” she said. “The reason why we would lose the CHIP funding if this program were to be eliminated is because we would no longer be compliant with the maintenance of effort requirements.”
Speaking with News 4 on Thursday, Sen. Scott admits the bill will likely not go far this session due to federal mandate. However, the purpose, he said was to look at ways Oklahoma’s core services could be funded.
“I’m looking for ways to fund education, education, get money in the classroom and a lot of these things that would help Oklahomans out, you know? Roads and bridges and such,” Scott explained.
According to the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority, the total enrollment in the Soon-to-be-Sooners program was 9,856 for Fiscal Year 2018. Of that, Scott said 6,227 were non-citizens or undocumented immigrants while less than 3,600 were citizens.
“I found from staff today that there are twice as many non-documented mothers in the program than there are Oklahomans in the program, so that says a lot right there. That we’re providing twice as much for non-documented mothers as we are Oklahoman mothers,” Scott told News 4. “I can’t say it enough that I do not want it to effect Oklahomans that are here legally, that are poor, or poor mothers or expectant mothers. That is never my intent.”
The proposed bill also states “any participant already receiving a benefit prior to January 1, 2020, will be allowed to continue until a final service is rendered. The Oklahoma Healthcare Authority shall repeal or amend all pertinent rules of the program to reflect the elimination of the program.”
Scott said he will continue to research the topic.
“That was never the intent of my bill was to affect Oklahomans or low income mothers or anything else,” he said. “Our responsibility is to the taxpayers of this state, not illegal immigrants. I’d like to encourage Oklahomans to call their Congressmen and urge them to remove the requirement to cover non-citizens under the CHIP. Our healthcare system is in chaos so it makes no sense that the federal government is making the problem worse by covering thousands of illegal immigrants instead of holding them accountable and making them come to our country legally.”
To read Senate Bill 40, click here.