- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 19, 2019

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - State lawmakers are considering a bill that would use Medicaid expansion funds to boost Oklahoma’s private-insurance subsidy program.

Insure Oklahoma provides health coverage for low-income, working residents or Oklahomans who don’t have employer-provided benefits.

The measure would require the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the state’s Medicaid agency, to seek federal approval for a waiver to expand Insure Oklahoma. A Senate Committee approved the proposal Monday.

Sen. Greg McCortney, the bill’s sponsor, said Oklahoma would be able to obtain around $1.2 billion in federal dollars at a state cost of $141 million in the first year. He noted the state’s money would come from partnerships with providers.

“I think this bill is timely,” he said. “We have an administration in (Washington) D.C. that has indicated it is willing to sign off on something like this instead of a Medicaid expansion program.”

If passed, the federal government would eventually provide a 90 percent match on state dollars.

McCortney said the proposal also includes a provision that would require the Legislature to decide on Insure Oklahoma’s future if the federal government ever decided to end Medicaid expansion.

Critics contend the proposal exploits federal flexibility to impose work requirements and utilize private insurers.

“It’s not a Medicaid expansion,” said Carly Putnam, a health care policy analyst at the Oklahoma Policy Institute. “It’s using the federal dollars intended for Medicaid expansion for a private, Oklahoma plan.”

Gov. Kevin Stitt said he’s open to considering Medicaid expansion under certain circumstances. But he will not approve any Medicaid expansion bill until he’s granted authority to hire a director of the state’s Health Care Authority.

Oklahoma is one of 14 states that oppose the Medicaid expansion program. Similar work requirements have been challenged in Arkansas and Kentucky .

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