Whether it’s Medicaid expansion or an eligible Oklahoma plan, experts said Wednesday the state must find a way to bring in additional federal funds for its hospitals.
Duncan Regional Hospital President and CEO Jay Johnson and OU Medicine President and CEO Chuck Spicer told members of the Oklahoma Healthcare Working Group the nine-to-one funding match would go a long way in increasing access to care and improving dismal health outcomes.
Johnson said Oklahoma has seen six rural hospitals close and eight go bankrupt since 2016.
"Hospitals in states that expanded Medicaid were 84% less likely to close than hospitals in non-expansion states. We probably would have saved some of those hospitals had we done that," Johnson said.
Johnson said he could support securing the matching funds by expanding Medicaid eligibility to adults making up to 138% of the poverty level or by lawmakers coming up with an Oklahoma-specific plan that qualifies.
Spicer said Medicaid funds could shore up rural hospitals hemorrhaging money on uncompensated care — Duncan takes a loss on nearly three-fourths of the patients it serves now — and help pay for dozens more graduate medical education slots.
Republicans are still hesitant, citing concerns the feds will pull back from the nine-to-one match currently on offer.
Spicer said he doesn’t see the state rejecting similar funding boosts for other things.
"Obviously, we understand this is scalable up and down, depending on funding. But I think if it’s a road or a bridge or an Air Force base, we’re not asking that question. For whatever reason, we have to ask it about health care," Spicer said.
Working group co-chair Rep. Marcus McEntire said lawmakers are wary of runaway growth in health care costs.
"I don’t know of anybody in this room that’s comfortable with an infusion of federal funds until we can figure out how in the heck do we stymie or slow down the rising cost of health care?" McEntire said.