OHA press conference highlights need to increase cigarette tax

Posted on: 4/19/17


 
The press room at the state Capitol was packed for the OHA press conference Tuesday.
Oklahoma has 65 rural hospitals. Fifty-three operate at a loss. Thirty-seven have less than two weeks’ cash on hand. And seven operate payroll to payroll; one missed Medicaid payment means doctors and nurses won’t get paid.

Those statistics, presented yesterday by Eide Bailly Director of Medical Professionals Rick Wagner, demonstrate the desperate need for Oklahoma’s Legislature to increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes $1.50 to fund health care.

Wagner and others delivered the call to save health care in Oklahoma at a press conference at the Oklahoma Capitol as part of the Oklahoma Hospital Association (OHA) effort to makeOKbetter.

Craig Jones, president of OHA, said the public strongly supports increasing the tax.

“The will of the people is evident,” he said. “Seventy-four percent of Oklahomans agree with us. Now, it’s time for the Legislature to make this tax increase happen.”

If the tax does not increase, Oklahoma may have to cut the reimbursement rate for services provided to Medicaid patients 25 percent. If that happens, more than a dozen hospitals will close within a year, four out of five hospitals will not deliver babies, and nine in 10 nursing homes would have to close.

Chuck Spicer, CEO of the OU Medical System, said those closures would jeopardize trauma care for the entire state. A lack of prenatal care in rural areas would mean more high-risk pregnancies, more babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), and more acute cases at OU Medical.

“When rural patients who could have been treated easily come to OU Medical, it means fewer beds available for Level 1 trauma cases and other complex conditions,” Spicer said. OU Medical offers the only Level 1 trauma service in the state.

Nico Gomez, CEO of the Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers, said $93 million in state and federal funding cuts since 2010 have already forced more than one-quarter of nursing homes in the state to close.

He said the state needs more money for health care; even without a reimbursement rate cut, 30 percent of nursing homes face closure.

“If we see a 25 percent cut, we will not have skilled nursing facilities in Oklahoma,” he said. He also noted 19,000 people could lose their jobs, and 18,000 people – including the elderly, sick and vulnerable – would lose their homes, with no alternatives.

The speakers urged Oklahomans to sign up at makeokbetter.org and to call their legislators and tell them to raise the cigarette tax by $1.50 a pack.

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OHA Partners with Healthcare Staffing Services 


Healthcare Staffing Services was developed as a collaborative effort among multiple state hospital associations to meet the temporary staffing needs of member hospitals and health systems.

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