Changing Directions, Oklahoma Eyes Medicaid Expansion

Despite bitter resistance in Oklahoma for years to President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul, Republican leaders in this conservative state are now confronting something that alarms them even more: a huge $1.3 billion hole in the budget that threatens to do widespread damage to the state’s healthcare system.

So, in what would be the grandest about-face among rightward leaning states, Oklahoma is now moving toward a plan to expand its Medicaid program to bring in billions of federal dollars from Obama’s new health care system.

What’s more, GOP leaders are considering a tax hike to cover the state’s share of the costs.

“We’re to the point where the provider rates are going to be cut so much that providers won’t be able to survive, particularly the nursing homes,” said Republican state Rep. Doug Cox, referring to possible cuts in state funds for indigent care that could cause some hospitals and nursing homes to close.

Despite furious opposition by conservative groups, Republican Gov. Mary Fallin and some GOP legislative leaders are pushing the plan, and support appears to be growing in the overwhelmingly Republican Legislature. Details have not been ironed out but the proposal is based on an Indiana program that received federal approval.

Obama called on

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