Shawnee dentist quits state health board, blasts Gov. Fallin on Medicaid
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Saturday, December 08, 2012
12/08/12 at 7:48 AM
Read the Tulsa World continuing coverage of the health care law.
Learn more: Read Dr. Glenn Davis’ resignation letter.
OKLAHOMA CITY - A member of the state Board of Health has resigned in response to Gov. Mary Fallin's decision not to accept federal money to expand the state Medicaid program.
"It's like federal funds are suddenly dirty," former board member Glenn Davis said in a telephone interview Friday. "Here's an opportunity to make a major impact, and we refuse it. It just doesn't make any sense to me."
State health department programs operate with an enormous amount of federal funding, and the Medicaid expansion offer was a chance to make a huge impact on the number of uninsured people in the state and help everyone from hospital owners to state prison convicts, Davis said.
"It's frustrating," he said.
A dentist from Shawnee, Davis has served on the board since 2010. He was chairman of its public health policy committee.
"I will not serve as a 'rubber stamp' for the status quo in this political environment," Davis said in a resignation letter received by the governor's office this week.
The letter specifically cites the Medicaid decision and another decision to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, as well as a more general attitude of cutting resources to critical areas.
"The present mindset of our state government is to require more with less," Davis wrote. "Public health and public education are just too important for this approach."
While the state has accepted Affordable Care Act funding in other less controversial settings, it turned down the Medicaid expansion money, Davis wrote.
"Federal taxes paid by Oklahomans will now help pay for the health care of citizens in other states," Davis wrote.
His letter also complains about a September decision by the state health department to cancel a contract with Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma to provide Women, Infant and Children program services to low-income women who are pregnant or have recently given birth, and to children younger than age 5.
Davis called that decision "another symptom of this political view."
Planned Parenthood has filed a federal lawsuit seeking an injunction to stop the health department's decision.
Fallin announced Nov. 19 that she was rejecting the Medicaid money, which is authorized under the federal Affordable Care Act.
The federal law promises that the federal government will pay for 100 percent of the benefit cost of the expansion for the first three years before gradually shifting costs to the state. The state costs would cap at 10 percent in 2020.
In making her announcement, Fallin said accepting the money would put the state at risk of costs of up to $475 million between now and 2020, with escalating annual expenses in subsequent years.
Medicaid expansion advocates have disputed Fallin's cost estimates and have claimed that the state could actually end up making money by accepting the federal Medicaid funding, which would eliminate prison, mental health and health department programs that are currently funded entirely with state money, lead to a healthier work force and expand the state's tax base by attracting more medical professionals.
A spokesman for Fallin reiterated her position Friday in response to the Davis resignation.
"Governor Fallin has explained that expanding Medicaid as outlined under 'ObamaCare' is unaffordable," said spokesman Alex Weintz. "An expansion permanently locks the state into new costs which it cannot pay for without cutting funding for other priorities like education and public safety. Furthermore, it expands a massive and expensive government entitlement program without offering any meaningful reform. All of that takes place in the context of a dysfunctional Washington environment where dramatic spending cuts seem imminent."
Weintz said the governor appreciates Davis' service to the state and recognizes that people feel strongly about the Medicaid issue, but adds that she "disagrees with the conclusions he draws about the federal health care law and the future of health care policy in Oklahoma."
Weintz pointed out that in the November 2010 election, Oklahomans voted overwhelming for a constitutional amendment prohibiting the implementation of a key element of the Affordable Care Act.
"She also believes the majority of Oklahomans ... are opposed to expanding Medicaid," Weintz said.
NAACP president blasts Fallin's Medicaid decision
The president of the Oklahoma NAACP rebuked Gov. Mary Fallin on Friday for her decision to reject Medicaid expansion funding through the Affordable Care Act and called on her to change her mind.
"I urge you to make the responsible choice for Oklahoma and allow our state to join the Medicaid expansion," Anthony R. Douglas, president of the Oklahoma State Conference of the NAACP, told Fallin in a Friday press release.
Douglas called for a meeting with Fallin and legislative leaders concerning her Nov. 19 decision to reject federal Medicaid funding under the Affordable Care Act. The money would have funded a huge expansion of state health coverage of poor people, but would have come with an equally huge potential cost to the state, Fallin said at the time.
"By refusing to join the Medicaid expansion, we are missing a vital opportunity to improve the health of our citizens, bolster the financial situation of our health care providers, and strengthen our state economy," Douglas said.
"By joining the expansion, we could provide health coverage to tens of thousands of our poorest citizens, which would dramatically improve the health and financial stability of our state's work force.
"The number of hospital, clinic, assisted living and nursing home jobs could be a boom. We already lack greatly in trained professionals to deal with the fact of putting a huge number of Oklahomans, many for the first time, in line for some type of health care."
Fallin's decision represents partisan politics that puts the health of the state's most vulnerable citizens at risk, Douglas said.
Original Print Headline: Health board member quits
Wayne Greene 918-581-8308
Glenn Davis, DDS: "It's like federal funds are suddenly dirty. Here's an opportunity to make a major impact, and we refuse it."