- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 29, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A state agency announced Tuesday that it is cutting reimbursement rates paid to more than 46,000 Medicaid providers by 25 percent - an amount that the head of the Oklahoma Hospital Association said will have a “market changing” effect on health care in the state.

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which oversees Medicaid in Oklahoma, announced plans for the rate cuts to take effect in the upcoming fiscal year that begins July 1. The cuts come amid plunging state revenue collections and a roughly $1.3 billion hole in next year’s state budget.

Craig Jones, the president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association, which represents more than 135 hospitals and health care systems across the state, said the cuts will be devastating to the health care of Oklahoma’s poorest citizens.

“This is a market changing development in terms of hospitals’ and other providers’ ability to satisfactorily treat those that are on Medicaid,” Jones said. “You have over 50 percent of the babies being born in Oklahoma that are on Medicaid. Our concern would be if physicians who deliver Medicaid babies can no longer do that, we’re talking about serious implications on the quality of care.”

Authority officials said the cuts will affect contracts with 46,129 providers, including hospitals, physicians, pharmacies, durable medical equipment providers and nursing facilities.

“I do not take these cuts lightly,” agency CEO Nico Gomez said in a statement. “I worry about the infrastructure of our health care system in light of these cuts. From a business standpoint, I’m afraid many providers will close their doors to our patients. In some cases, especially in rural parts of our state, health care professionals will have to move their business to larger communities in order to survive financially.”

Oklahoma missed out on billions of dollars in federal funds when Republican leaders declined to expand Medicaid, called SoonerCare in Oklahoma, to serve more low-income residents. Still, nearly 800,000 of Oklahoma’s 3.9 million citizens are enrolled in Medicaid, mostly children.

The Legislature is facing a hole in the upcoming fiscal year’s budget of about $1.3 billion, or nearly 20 percent of what lawmakers spent on the current budget. With the legislative session about halfway over and no agreed-upon plans for generating revenue through a tax increase or other means, state agencies are being directed to prepare for cuts of 15 percent or more to their budgets.


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