BY World's Editorials Writers
Saturday, August 04, 2012
8/04/12 at 4:30 AM
More reason why Gov. Mary Fallin ought to accept the Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act: It could save the state $47.8 million it is spending on health services for lower-income Oklahomans.
The Oklahoma Health Care Authority's first estimates are that accepting the federal funding would save the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse $34 million, the Department of Corrections $11.2 million and the Health Department $2.4 million. The savings would be accomplished by shifting services now completely funded with state dollars to Medicaid funding. That would allow the state to shift its money to other uses or to expand other health-care services to low-income Oklahomans.
"I think it's darn sure one of the selling points for accepting" the Medicaid expansion, said Michael Brose, executive director of the Mental Health Association in Tulsa.
Brose told the Tulsa World's Wayne Greene that accepting the increased federal funding would let Oklahoma serve more mentally ill people, give doctors and other service providers desperately needed rate increases and bring more crisis beds to northeastern Oklahoma. The result would be more productive, tax-paying citizens, without increasing cost to the state.
Improving mental health services without increasing state funding is just one of the potential benefits to be had by accepting the Medicaid expansion. The main one is that it would provide health insurance to 200,000 Oklahomans, or about a third of the 600,000 who are now uninsured.
Fallin has indicated that the state will wait until after the November presidential election to decide whether to accept the Medicaid expansion. She and legislative leaders are hoping that President Barack Obama will be defeated for re-election and that the Affordable Care Act, his signature legislative achievement, will be repealed. That position is not in the best interest of Oklahoma or its citizens, far too many of whom are without health coverage and depend on emergency rooms for their health care.