Medicaid Expansion urged

Omaha World-Herald file

Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma would bring health care coverage to 153,000 to 196,000 uninsured Oklahomans, according to a court filing last week.

The federal government would pay for 90% of the cost.

The result would be a state that is physically, psychologically and economically healthier, according to a coalition of health care groups that supports Medicaid expansion.

“Medicaid expansion can be expected to offer Oklahoma better health and mental health outcomes, increased access to services and medicine and financial stability for both families and health care providers,” according to the joint filing from the Oklahoma Hospital Association, the Oklahoma State Medical Association, the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association, the Oklahoma Nurses Association and Tulsa’s Saint Francis Health System.

The medical groups urge the state Supreme Court to allow circulation of an initiative petition to bring the Medicaid expansion to the state. If successful, the issue could go before voters in 2020.

Oklahoma — one of 14 states that hasn’t accepted federal Medicaid expansion funding — has the nation’s second-highest rate of uninsured people.

Rural Oklahoma hospitals have been hit hard by the state’s refusal to accept Medicaid money, the filing says. Largely because of uncompensated care, six rural hospitals have closed since 2010; another 17 are at high risk of closing, and 54% operate with a negative operating profit margin.

“A recent study found that rural hospitals in expansion states were 84% less likely to close that in nonexpansion states,” the filing says.

Oklahomans are paying for Medicaid expansion in other states, but our obstinate refusal to accept the money for our own people puts the health of the working poor and the financial stability of our rural hospital network at risk. The Supreme Court should allow the petition to move ahead.

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