Tulsa chamber's OneVoice agenda includes Medicaid expansion
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Friday, February 01, 2013
2/01/13 at 5:52 AM
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The Tulsa Regional Chamber restated its OneVoice legislative agenda Thursday, with Medicaid expansion, education funding and workers compensation reform at the top of the bill.
The three run the gamut in degree of difficulty. Workers compensation reform during the legislative session that begins Monday is almost a given.
Increased education funding, while perhaps not likely, is at least a possibility.
Medicaid expansion - federal money to extend Medicaid to an estimated 200,000 additional Oklahomans - has already been declined by Gov. Mary Fallin and has very little support among the Republican majorities in the state House and Senate.
One of the few Republican legislators who does favor Medicaid expansion, Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, explained his position Thursday during a news conference to reiterate the OneVoice agenda prior to the start of the session.
Cox, an emergency room physician, said his disagreement with Fallin over Medicaid expansion "probably has more to do with how we spend our time. When I'm not in the Legislature, I spend most of my time in the emergency room seeing patient after patient who are in the emergency room not because they have a medical emergency but because they have no other access to medical care.
"These folks are not deadbeats. These are hard-working Oklahomans, most of whom work for minimum wage or a little more than minimum wage for companies that cannot afford to offer health insurance to their employees."
Cox said that under the federal Affordable Care Act, providers will receive lower reimbursements from Medicare and that without Medicaid expansion and its corresponding payments, many hospitals, especially in rural areas, will close.
Tulsa Regional Chamber Chairman Jake Henry, chief executive officer of Saint Francis Health System, said Medicaid expansion deserves "debate based on facts and not political ideology."
He said refusing Medicaid expansion will not reduce federal spending or even state spending on Medicaid, but it will result in Oklahoma tax dollars going to other states.
Tulsa Regional Chamber President Mike Neal acknowledged that Medicaid expansion will be a tough sell in the Legislature, but he said lobbying is more than a one-year process.
"Many of these things make incremental progress," he said. "Medicaid may take years."
While operating under the umbrella of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, the OneVoice program involves more than 60 organizations, including area chambers of commerce, school districts, post-secondary education institutions, municipalities, county governments and economic development groups.
Original Print Headline: Chamber repeats push for Medicaid expansion
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365
Tulsa Regional Chamber Chairman Jake Henry, the CEO of Saint Francis Health System, said Thursday at the OneVoice legislative news conference that Medicaid expansion deserves debate in the Legislature "based on facts and not political ideology." STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World
Tulsa Regional Chamber President Mike Neal speaks at Thursday's OneVoice news conference as Jake Henry, the chamber's chairman, waits to speak. STEPHEN PINGRY/Tulsa World