The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

November 19, 2012

State senator, St. Mary’s CEO OK with decision to not expand Medicaid

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News & Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Gov. Mary Fallin’s decision Monday to reject Medicaid expansion has been met with concern, but understanding, by one Enid hospital administrator.

Fallin also decided Oklahoma will not create a state-run health exchange under the federal health care law. That means Oklahoma’s insurance exchange will be administered by the federal government.

Stan Tatum, chief executive officer of St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, said expansion would have increased the number of people eligible for Medicaid in the state; however, he also said he doesn’t think people have seen all the conditions that would have been attached by the federal government to such an increase.

“The fear factor in doing that is the bigger concern for the state, if they were to do that, and expand Medicaid. Eventually, the state has to pick up a portion of that additional cost, about $20 million by 2021,” Tatum said,

State health officials estimate an expansion to the required 133 percent of the federal poverty level would result in more than $1.5 billion in federal funding to the state during the first three years when the federal government picks up the full cost of the expansion. The state's share would grow to 10 percent of the cost by 2020, which would amount to about $56 million, according to estimates from the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

Jeff Tarrant, president of Integris Bass Baptist Health Center, was out of the office and could not be reached for comment Monday.

In a June article, Tarrant said Bass’s main objective is to provide the highest standard of care to all patients.

“When the issue of health care reform entered the political landscape years ago, Integris began to strategically plan for a number of possibilities,” Tarrant said.

State lawmakers representing Enid have gone on record previously as opposing the expansion of Medicaid. House Speaker Pro Tem Mike Jackson, R-Enid, said the governor made the right decision in not expanding Medicaid. He said the program is expensive and would have cost the state $478 million in the next seven years.

“And, that’s just to increase eligibility over different income levels. It’s a complicated system,” Jackson said.

State Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, also said the governor made the correct decision based on what it would mean to the state budget.

“Estimates during the summer were $30 million, and its already jumped to $48 million and it continues to go up,” Anderson said. “That would be less money for schools, roads, bridges, and we simply can’t afford to do that.”

State Rep. John Enns, R-Enid, previously said people in his district have told him they were opposed to the national health care plan, and he also is opposed to it.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.