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House Sends Senate Bill To Stop Stitt's Plan For Medicaid Managed Care

During a floor session that ran late into Tuesday night, the Oklahoma House advanced a bill to halt privatization of the state’s Medicaid program.

Senate Bill 131 would require the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to oversee the program and implement new elements like a prevention component assessing social health risks. Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma takes effect July 1. An estimated 200,000 residents will be newly eligible.

An analysis of SB131 estimates OHCA will need more than $250 million a year for several years to handle the work. The state earlier this year awarded contracts totaling $2 billion to four companies for a managed care program starting Oct. 1.

Rep. Marcus McEntire (R-Duncan) introduced the bill earlier this month and said Tuesday night while there’s risks to both plans, he believes keeping the program inside state government is the right move.

"Neither plan provides budget certainty. Neither one. And for anyone to say it does, they’re just not telling you the truth, Mr. Speaker. One is subject to a risk corridor, and both are subject to enrollment numbers. Both are subject to catastrophic losses and both to demand," McEntire said.

Rep. Cynthia Roe (R-Lindsay) said she sees troubling declines in hospital spending and increases in administrative costs in other states using managed care.

"Some of these managed care companies have had net income growth of over 100%. That’s our taxpayer dollars that’s providing that," Roe said.

Rep. T.J. Marti (R-Broken Arrow) said his father was a dentist during the state’s last run at managed care, which started in the late 1990s, and he saw Medicaid patients driving hours for services. Marti said SB131 will be the legislature’s legacy.

"This’ll be the bill they remember in five to 10 years. This is it. People are going to remember whether they could find a dentist or couldn’t find a dentist, and if they can’t, whose fault was that," Marti said.

The bill passed the House 73 to 17 with bipartisan support. Rep. Merelyn Bell (D-Norman) was among the noes, telling her colleagues lawmakers’ discussions have not involved patients currently getting care through OHCA, including some of her constituents.

"Their experiences so far have been so poor through the HCA that they’re willing to bet on the promises that managed care providers are telling them," Bell said.

The bill now goes to the Senate. Stitt would likely veto it if it reaches his desk. Lawmakers would need three-fourths majorities to override a veto.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.
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