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Opponents of privatized Medicaid announce alliance

Group aims to stop ‘Health Care Holdup’

OKLAHOMA CITY, March 11, 2021 – A coalition of health care providers and concerned Oklahomans today announced wide-ranging opposition to a flawed scheme to privatize the state’s Medicaid system. 

 

The group is asking Oklahoma legislators to stop the “Health Care Holdup” by halting the governor’s plan to place the system in the hands of insurance companies. 

 

Virtually every aspect of Oklahoma health care is united in opposition to the governor’s plan.

 

“Oklahoma has been down this road once before, and it was a dismal failure,” said Woody Jenkins, M.D., of Stillwater, co-chair of the Oklahoma State Medical Association Rural Physician Section. “It’s imperative that Oklahomans understand what is about to happen to Oklahoma’s highest-risk populations.” 

 

The effort includes a new website healthcareholdup.com, which describes the rationale for opposition, dispels myths about the promised benefits of privatized Medicaid and instructs Oklahomans how they can assure their voice is heard.

 

Privatization would limit health care access and would significantly increase the state’s Medicaid administrative costs, which, at less than 5 percent, are among the lowest in the nation. 

 

Opposition to so-called “managed care” comes not only from health care providers, but also from numerous legislators on both sides of the aisle. The combined opposition represents an almost-unprecedented repudiation of any gubernatorial proposal in Oklahoma history.

 

A similar effort in the 1990s to outsource Oklahoma’s Medicaid program was a failure, and ultimately it was returned to state control.

 

“Ninety percent of Oklahoma dentists dropped out due to extremely low reimbursement rates imposed by the private insurers. This had a catastrophic effect, particularly on rural Oklahomans and children, as it left less than 100 dentists to treat Medicaid patients,” said Dr. Twana Duncan, whose dentistry practice in Antlers serves several southeastern Oklahoma counties. “I have no doubt this will happen again unless this effort is stopped.”

 

Concerned Oklahomans are asked to contact their state representative and senator to make their opposition known. Legislative contact information is available at oklegislature.gov.  

Members of the coalition include:

  • Oklahoma State Medical Association

  • Oklahoma Dental Association

  • Oklahoma Hospital Association

  • Oklahoma Osteopathic Association

  • Oklahoma Society of Anesthesiologists

  • American Academy of Pediatrics – Oklahoma Chapter

  • Alliance of Mental Health Providers of Oklahoma

  • Oklahoma Association of Home Care and Hospice

  • Oklahoma Psychological Association

  • Oklahoma Pharmacists Association

  • Oklahoma Ambulance Association

  • Oklahoma Nurses Association

  • Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians

  • Leading Age Oklahoma

  • Oklahoma Medical Equipment Providers Association

  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Oklahoma Chapter

  • The Arc of Oklahoma

The name of this campaign conveys the “holdup” resulting from privatization: that necessary patient health services and procedures will be either denied or held up. “Holdup” also refers to the governor’s intentional bypass of members of the state Legislature, who are closest to their constituents. 

“The Legislature allocates taxpayer dollars, and yet our legislators have not had the opportunity to weigh in on this important decision that impacts their communities,” said Patti Davis, Oklahoma Hospital Association president.

This coalition is not the first opposition to the managed care proposal.

Several physician and dental groups asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Feb. 11 to halt the privatization effort until the Legislature can review and approve it. The injunction asks the Supreme Court to determine whether a state board has the authority to commit billions of dollars in future spending without approval of the Legislature, which has the constitutional responsibility of funding state government.

The court has ordered the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to respond by March 15.