Medicaid Makeover: Oklahoma House Passes Key Health-Care Reform Measure, House Bill 2842

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A bill to bring about a major revamping of Oklahoma's Medicaid system passed the state House on Monday by 81-17.

Supporters say House Bill 2842, by state Rep. Kris Steele, R- Shawnee, will save more than $100 million while providing program participants health care coverage tailored to their needs.

Opponents said they fear the measure could mean reduced services for Medicaid recipients.

Under the bill, those on Medicaid would choose from a menu of options, depending on their health-care needs.

Participants could choose to opt out of Medicaid and use a state- allocated payment to participate in an employer-sponsored health care plan.

Far too many government programs simply tell people what to do, Steele said. It's time to give Medicaid recipients more control over their health care, as well as more options and more responsibility.

Steele said that under the bill many of the more than 600,000 Oklahomans on Medicaid could be covered by private insurance companies.

HB 2842 would direct the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the state Medicaid agency, to implement a personal health account program for participants.

It also appropriates $93 million to the authority to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for hospitals and doctors that provide care for Medicaid patients.

State Rep. Lucky Lamons, D-Tulsa, tried to get House rules suspended for an amendment that would extend reimbursement protection into future years, but his motion failed.

Lamons said Tulsa-area hospitals provide about $100 million a year in uncompensated care.

Health-care policies issued under the reform program would not be subject to numerous mandates upon other health insurance policies, such as requiring them to provide coverage for mammography screening, bone-density testing, diabetes supplies and services, obstetrical/gynecological examinations, child immunizations, prostate cancer screening, colorectal cancer exams and other items.

An amendment by House Democratic Leader Jari Askins, D-Duncan, to remove these exemptions was tabled by Steele.

Steele said there is no reason to mandate such coverage if a particular recipient does not need them.

With Oklahoma's Medicaid program looming on a crisis, we can no longer afford to wait for significant reforms, House Speaker Todd Hiett, R-Kellyville said. …