A conservative approach to Medicaid

Fred Morgan, President and CEO

Ever since the Affordable Care Act passed, Oklahomans have made it clear: We want an Oklahoma-based solution, not a federal mandate, to solve the problem of uninsured residents.
Getting more Oklahomans covered under private insurance plans and reducing the Medicaid rolls is a core conservative issue. The Insure Oklahoma premium assistance program is the best, cost-effective solution to achieving this goal. So it’s somewhat surprising to see opposition from some on the right to a Medicaid rebalancing plan that results in more people with private plans and fewer relying on the state.

Reducing the amount of uncompensated care hospitals provide is a business issue for several reasons. First of all, hospitals are businesses. Health care is the largest private industry in the state, employing approximately one out of 10 Oklahomans. In rural Oklahoma, a hospital is often the largest employer. These employees pay taxes, and the hospitals purchase goods and services from vendors and spawn other businesses such as specialists and pharmacies.

Secondly, uncompensated care ends up being paid for by cost shifting to businesses and their employees through higher premiums on private health care plans. Hospitals can’t turn anyone away, so if someone shows up without insurance, hospitals are obligated to provide care. Shifting the costs to the private sector is another form of wealth redistribution. If hospitals don’t shift the cost to those with insurance or limit services, the only other option is shutting down. We have already seen this firsthand in communities like Sayre and Frederick. Shifting costs to businesses and their employees and shutting down hospitals are not good for the economic health of Oklahomans.

Finally, proximity to quality health care is important for attracting and growing business in Oklahoma. A company looking to open a plant in Oklahoma is much more likely to choose a community with a hospital. Closing hospitals only makes it more difficult to attract new jobs. And without jobs or medical care, more people will move away from rural Oklahoma, accelerating the downward spiral.

The good news is we have a solution. It’s been developed by Oklahomans and uses one of our state’s best programs, Insure Oklahoma, to carry it out.

Medicaid rebalancing is a conservative approach to getting more people off of Medicaid and into private health plans. Difficult times can spur innovative solutions and this conservative, Oklahoma-based approach to health coverage is a perfect example of that.

This column was printed in The Journal Record on May 6, 2016

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