Governor delivers State of State and budget

Posted on: 2/7/2020

On Monday, Feb. 3, the opening day of the Second Session of the 57th Oklahoma Legislature, Gov. Kevin Stitt addressed a joint session of the Oklahoma Legislature to present his proposals for the coming year. In advance of the address, Gov. Stitt’s budget secretary, Mike Mazzei, presented his proposed budget for FY2021 to reporters. Because of a downturn in state revenue collections in the last year, the governor has proposed a flat budget. Stitt’s budget proposes lawmakers have only about $163 million to look at spending across an array of state agencies. The state’s overall budget is $8.3 billion.
The Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the state’s Medicaid agency, would receive a modest increase under the governor’s budget of $23 million. The $23 million is to cover the expense of an extra claim week that occurs once every six years. To read the governor’s State of the State address, click here.

Last week, Stitt announced a plan to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma through a federal block grant. Calling it Soonercare 2.0, Stitt believes the grant will reduce the number of uninsured people in the state while maintaining accountability. As part of this program, the governor will seek “moderate premiums” and work requirements for able-bodied adults. In his address, the governor openly campaigned against the State Question 802 Medicaid expansion initiative, an initiative that gathered more than 300,000 signatures from voters. “Any other effort to enact a clean expansion of Medicaid, to include putting it in the state’s constitution, will create significant restrictions,” he said. “With straight Medicaid expansion, Oklahoma will be left with the same ineffective and unaccountable program that has failed to bring us out of the bottom ten rankings.”

Stitt also called for consolidation of the agencies delivering Medicaid services into a single agency along with all medical licensure boards and the Department of Mental Health Services. His analysis shows 10 state agencies facilitate the spending of Medicaid dollars in the state. He also wants to audit the state’s Medicaid system to ensure people who should be receiving benefits are receiving them and people who are defrauding the system are removed.

When the OHA has a full analysis of the governor’s plan prepared, we will provide that to our membership. In the House Insurance Committee meeting this week, a representative from the OHCA, when asked how long it would take to implement the governor’s plan, stated “it is typically a two-year process.”

SQ 802 has passed all legal hurdles and is now waiting on the governor to set an election date. The OHA is the leading advocate for SQ 802 and has offered solutions should the federal funds cease for this program. Thirty-seven states have already accepted the federal funds to expand Medicaid for working adults.
From 2017 to 2021, had Oklahoma accepted federal funds, more than $14.5 billion would have been injected into our state’s economy and more than 24,000 health care related jobs would have been created. (“Estimated Impact of New Coverage – Accepting Federal Funds, 2017-2021,” Analysis of state budget impact by Manatt Health by Dr. Gerald A. Doeksen, et al., OSU, April 2016.)

Because more people would get treatment earlier, including substance abuse and mental health treatment, acceptance would reduce the overall cost of health care delivery in Oklahoma. Right now, private payers and those buying insurance bear the burden for uncompensated care. This cost shifting will be reduced by acceptance of federal funds for health care.

One in five working age (19-64) Oklahomans is without health insurance coverage, giving Oklahoma the state with the second highest uninsured rate in the U.S. (U.S. Census Bureau). The uninsured in Oklahoma mostly include low-income working adults in service-industry jobs.

OHA is firmly committed to the passage of SQ 802, Medicaid expansion. (Sandra Harrison)