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Local & Regional

Funding Uncertainty Has Oklahoma Health Care Authority Coming up with Multiple Contingencies

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okhca.org
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These are uncertain financial times for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

OHCA was appropriated $70 million from the cigarette fee opponents are asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to strike down. Oral arguments are next week.

Depending on congressional actions, OHCA could also soon be missing as much as $90 million in federal matching dollars for SoonerCare, the state's Medicaid program.

"If you total some of those things up, yes, they're very significant, so we remain cautiously optimistic that we will be able to sustain our program," said OHCA CEO Becky Pasternik-Ikard.

Reductions in benefits and provider rates are a last resort, but they are possibilities. If the cigarette fee is struck down and the revenue isn’t replaced, the loss could translate into an 8 percent provider rate cut across the board.

"That is something we would prefer not to do," Pasternik-Ikard said. "No, we value our provider network, and they're critical to the success of our program."

One thing the authority could do to minimize a rate cut is cut optional services, some of which are dialysis, organ transplants and private-duty nurses for kids.

SoonerCare covered nearly 814,000 Oklahomans at last count.

"And about two-thirds of that is children," Pasternik-Ikard said. "And included also within that number, there are pregnant women, there's the elderly and there is also the disabled."

About two-thirds of people enrolled in SoonerCare are below the federal poverty level.