State to look for alternatives to Medicaid expansion
BY World's Editorials Writers
Monday, January 14, 2013
1/14/13 at 2:52 AM
The state's Medicaid agency has decided to spend $500,000 on a consultant to look into options for providing health-care coverage for as many as 200,000 Oklahomans, a decision prompted in part by the governor's refusal to go along with a federal initiative to expand Medicaid.
The consultant, Utah-based Leavitt Partners, will try to identify state-based alternatives to the Medicaid expansion element called for in the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
Gov. Mary Fallin refused to implement the Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma, citing concerns about costs. Other observers felt any added costs to the state would have been offset by the enormous savings and new spending that would have been generated by providing Medicaid coverage to a huge segment of the population.
To many - including us - it still seems that going along with the Medicaid expansion, which would have brought in billions of dollars in federal revenue, would have been the simplest and best course. But because it's highly unlikely Fallin will reconsider her decision, pursuing other alternatives is the next best course.
Who knows? Maybe the consultant will come up with some good possibilities. Maybe this process - which also will play out in other states where conservative leaders have balked at implementing Obamacare - will lead to some give-and-take between states and the Obama administration, resulting in some modifications acceptable to all.
The consultant group, founded in 2009 by former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, is performing the same kinds of tasks in other states that have rejected elements of Obamacare. With that much study going on across the country, it's conceivable some good solutions will be developed.
One possibility is to expand Insure Oklahoma, a state program that blends state, federal and private funds to create an affordable insurance program. Another alternative might be to pursue the possibility of a federal waiver to expand programs such as SoonerCare, the state's Medicaid program. Waivers are a proven way of carrying out federal objectives in a fashion tailored to a particular state, so that idea holds some promise.
In a related development, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority hired Nico Gomez to be the new agency chief executive. He had been deputy chief executive, and will replace Mike Fogerty, who is retiring.
He is a good choice, and we wish him luck in his new role. He's going to need it.
Original Print Headline: Next step