Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Bleeding Out: Impact of 2.5-Pct. Medicaid Cut in Okla. Could Swell to $213M

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Bleeding Out: Impact of 2.5-Pct. Medicaid Cut in Okla. Could Swell to $213M

Article excerpt

A plan to cut the Oklahoma Health Care Authority's budget by 2.5 percent would cost the agency more than $79 million and would have an impact of more than $213 million after matching federal funds were lost, agency documents show.

With just two weeks left in the legislative session, Republican leaders in the Oklahoma House and Senate are telling many agencies to expect budget cuts of 2 percent to 3 percent. At the OHCA, those cuts would translate to fewer dollars for a majority of the state's rural hospitals and could result in a loss of services.

"At first look, 2.5 percent doesn't seem like that much," said Roger Knak, administrator of the Fairview Regional Medical Center. "But when you add in the federal sequestration and the loss of operating money there, well, it's disastrous."

About 60 percent of Fairview Regional's budget comes from Medicaid. Knak said a 2.5-percent cut would take another $10,000 to $15,000 out of his budget and could end some services. Right now, Fairview Regional operates a Saturday clinic that serves several hundred patients annually. But if the hospital has to take another cut, Knak said, he would have to close the clinic for several months of the year.

"We're looking at shutting it down during the non-influenza season," he said. "But the other problem is, once you shut it down for several months, it's difficult to reopen and get the word out."

In Cleveland County the story is similar, but the numbers are bigger. At Norman Regional Hospital, CEO and President David Whitaker said he stands to lose between $2.2 million and $2.6 million if the Legislature cuts the OHCA's budget.

"Obviously, that's a good-sized cut," Whitaker said.

Like Knak, Whitaker said the budget cut could force Norman Regional to reduce its community wellness programs and hamper efforts to recruit new physicians who accept Medicaid.

"Right now, I think there are only two doctors in Cleveland County who are accepting new Medicaid patients," he said. …

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