BY BRIAN RENEGAR
First of all, the approximately 200,000 Oklahomans that are currently uninsured and that would be covered or insured if Medicaid expansion is accepted are not the unemployed! That’s right, it is the countless families whose household heads work for minimum wage [or just above]. That includes retail workers, hotel workers and support personnel at most businesses in District 17.
At the present some of these workers are eligible for Insure Oklahoma, which is a state program where the state, employer and the employee share in the premiums of an insurance plan. I have this plan in place at my animal hospital.
If we don’t accept Medicaid expansion the uninsured will still use the local emergency room for their health care, which, in turn, will be paid by the insured [by increased insurance premiums].
Folks, we accept federal money for running the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant. We accept it to build bridges and Highway 69. Why can’t we accept it to save our rural hospitals, improve our senior citizen nursing homes and increase our home health care?
The big argument against accepting Medicaid expansion is that from 2017 through 2020, it is going to cost the state of Oklahoma $478 million – to receive $4.3 billion. Folks, that is better than an 8-1 match. That’s the best I have ever seen.
Back in 1985, President Ronald Reagan signed into law a federal act that says hospital emergency rooms cannot turn away people based on their ability to pay. This is a federal mandate! If we turn down this federal Medicaid expansion, we are making this an unfunded mandate.
By accepting this funding, it will create 23,500 new jobs and the state will collect $522 million in new state tax revenue! That, in itself, pays for the $478 million state cost for that plan.
Right now we are spending $46 million in state dollars to fund Insure
Oklahoma. If the projected 30% is removed and covered by Medicaid expansion, that would be saving the state $13 million per year for seven years for a total savings of $91 million.
Folks, I realize this isn’t a very sexy topic, but I believe it is my responsibility to share this information with you. And, on a local note, this will cost McAlester Regional Hospital from $800,000 to $1.4 million.
– Brian Renegar, a McAlester Democrat, represents District 17 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives