MEDICAID EXPANSION RALLY HEALTH CARE

People attend a rally for Medicaid and health care coverage expansion at the Capitol in Oklahoma City on April 24. Supporters of Medicaid expansion are working to circulate an initiative petition to get the issue on the ballot in Oklahoma. NATE BILLINGS/The Oklahoman file

Gov. Kevin Stitt’s people say he’s working on an Oklahoma solution to Oklahoma’s health-care problems.

We await eagerly.

If Stitt uses the business metrics that he said would be his guide when he was a candidate for governor, it’s hard to imagine how he would turn away from available federal funding for improved health-care coverage, a critical part to any Oklahoma solution.

At a state cost of 10 cents on the dollar, the federal government will fund health care for some 233,000 uninsured working poor Oklahomans. For partisan political reasons, the state has resisted the funding for years. Oklahoma taxes are paying for Medicaid expansion in 36 other states, but we get nothing.

Thus, Oklahoma has the second-highest rate of uninsured people in the nation.

Stitt says he will oppose an initiative petition seeking to mandate “Obamacare” Medicaid expansion if it survives a pending legal challenge.

Instead, he says he will present his own solution to the issue this fall — an Oklahoma Plan to deal with a broad range of health-care issues, including coverage.

If that sounds familiar, it could be because we’ve heard it before. Gov. Mary Fallin promised an Oklahoma plan, which turned out to be using Medicaid expansion money to buy private insurance for eligible people and raise the cigarette tax $1.50 a pack for other health programs.

It was a good idea, but the Legislature ignored it. The state eventually raised the cigarette tax $1 (for schools) and did nothing about health-care coverage.

Meanwhile, those thousands of uncovered Oklahomans still get sick and injured. When they do, they end up in hospital emergency rooms, where their costs are either written off — undercutting the financial stability of the hospitals — or get passed along to insured patients, who see the effect in their premiums.

If Gov. Stitt has an Oklahoma solution to the problem, let’s see it. Oklahomans are paying for better health care than they are getting, and they’re getting tired of waiting for the state’s politicians to do something about it.

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