OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The agency that oversees Medicaid in Oklahoma is requesting an additional $200 million, mostly to maintain its current level of health care services for low-income residents, the agency’s new leader told state lawmakers on Tuesday.
Becky Pasternik-Ikard, the new chief executive officer of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, outlined her agency’s budget during a hearing on Tuesday before the House Appropriations and Budget Committee.
Pasternik-Ikard said about $120 million of the agency’s requested budget increase for the fiscal year that begins July 1 is to maintain its current level of programs. An additional $24 million would be required to restore a 3 percent rate cut to Medicaid providers in the state that was implemented last year.
The Health Care Authority received nearly $1 billion in state appropriations last year and was one of the few agencies to receive a funding increase amid a $1.3 billion shortfall.
“Last session was not easy. And we fared very well in that appropriations process,” Pasternik-Ikard told lawmakers. “We’re very grateful.”
Lawmakers this year are facing another shortfall of about $870 million. Without additional funding, Pasternik-Ikard said one of the few options the agency has to save money is reducing the amount it pays to health care providers for services to Medicaid recipients. But as reimbursement rates shrink, many providers stop providing care to Medicaid patients.
There are currently about 816,000 state residents, more than 20 percent of the state’s population and mostly children, enrolled in Medicaid, called Soonercare in Oklahoma. About 57 percent of all births in Oklahoma are covered by Medicaid.
Every 1 percent cut to provider reimbursement rate equates to a savings of about $8.6 million in state appropriations, Pasternik-Ikard said.
“The Health Care Authority has a tremendous challenge in front of them,” said Rep. Chad Caldwell, R-Enid. “I think we’re in a similar place to where we were last year, where just to maintain where we are now they’re going to need an increase in their budget.”
The Health Care Authority is one of the five in Oklahoma that receive nearly 80 percent of all state-appropriated funding. The others are the departments of education, transportation, higher education and human services. Officials with each of those five agencies presented budget information over the last several days to legislators ahead of the session that begins Feb. 6.
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