BY DAVID PERRYMAN
The verdict is definitely in. Numbers do not lie. Accepting federal funds may cause diabetes, according to the 23% increase in persons with diabetes in those states that have accepted federal health care dollars for employees living below or near the poverty level. We’ll discuss that logic below.
Meanwhile, with millions of working Americans unable to afford insurance, it has become apparent that the rising cost of health care had an alarmingly negative effect on the health of America’s poor.
At the same time, hospitals across the country faced the real possibility of closing because they had to write off massive amounts of bad debt because so many people who they did treat were unable to pay.
Nowhere were those situations more drastic than the Sooner State where no one was eligible for Medicaid if they held a job. Any job.
To address the situation, the federal government proposed that states could receive federal funds in return for tweaking their Medicaid eligibility requirements so that working men or women whose jobs do not provide health insurance could sign up for Medicaid, so long as they did not earn more than $16,244 per year.
Medicaid would be available for couples if their combined wages did not exceed $21,000 or – if a couple had a child – $22,000.
The non-profit non-partisan Urban Institute says there are about 149,000 working Oklahomans whose jobs do not provide insurance, but do not make enough money to purchase insurance. The proposal was that federal funds would pay 100% of the cost for the first three years and a minimum of 90% of the cost thereafter.
Over the past five years, 31 states have either changed their Medicaid rules or are in the process of changing their Medicaid rules so that these uninsured men and women who live in – or very close to – poverty would have health coverage. Oklahoma has refused to accept federal dollars for this program.
According to a recent editorial in the Journal Record, the effect on the business communities in those states that have accepted this money has been extremely positive.
There have been significant drops in uninsured emergency room visits and uncompensated care has been reduced by $5 billion. That is $5 billion more in their economies.
Also, there has been a decrease in bad debt and a drop in the number of consumer bankruptcies is anticipated.
According to the Oklahoma Hospital Association, hospitals in our state provided more than $577 million in uncompensated care in 2013. About half of that amount, or nearly $300 million, is uncollectable “bad debt” causing medical costs to rise for everyone as these shortfalls are shifted to patients who pay out of pocket, insurance companies and self-insured businesses.
If Gov. Fallin would sign on with the 31 Republican and Democratic governors who have given the acceptance of federal funds a thorough and serious non-partisan look, she would see that allowing the working poor to be insured will provide the state with average annual net savings of $45 million over 10 years simply by using federal funds to pay costs that are currently paid for with state dollars.
Four hundred fifty million dollars is way too much money to leave on the table.
Those federal funds could be spent on medical care right here in Oklahoma and boost payrolls, replace some of the red ink on the balance sheets of community health centers and rural hospitals with black, provide a major economic boost in all sectors and help individual businesses have healthier employees.
Now getting back to that 23% increase in diabetics as reported by Quest Diagnostics: Thank goodness that those newly diagnosed diabetics live in states other than Oklahoma where they will now be receiving treatment and medicine so that they can enjoy healthier and longer lives.
Unfortunately, the 23% or more in Oklahoma will remain undiagnosed, untreated and unhealthy so long as our state follows its current course.
The message Oklahoma’s working poor receive: “Get out of bed. Go to work. Being sick is no excuse. Besides, we don’t have enough doctors for you to see mine. In your next life, get a job that has insurance.”
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives