Gov. Kevin Stitt was delivered a big setback Tuesday when the Oklahoma Supreme Court declared that his plan to privatize the state’s Medicaid program was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that the state and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority don’t have the authority to outsource Oklahoma’s Medicaid program without legislative authorization.

The governor’s insistence on outsourcing the program to four outside insurance agencies has been a point of contention from the beginning. Medical groups and associations lined up in opposition to the plan, primarily based on less-than-stellar management of Medicaid under privatization back in the 1990s.

Many members of the Legislature sided with the health care organizations in their concern, complaining that neither they nor the health care community were appropriately consulted for their input on such a privatization plan. There were many opportunities for the governor to work more closely with the Legislature and the medical community to hammer out a compromise; however, none seemed to come to fruition during the entire legislative session.

Lawmakers did their best to have their input on the plan by passing “guard rail” legislation in the final days of the session to require legislative approval for any further changes to the program.

The governor’s come-hell-or-high-water attitude regarding his agenda on Medicaid could put a snag in the program which is supposed to start on July 1. In fact, enrollment in the new program began yesterday. How big of a snag this new development will be remains to be seen.

If there are delays, it’s the governor’s refusal to work with the Legislature and the medical community that will be to blame.

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