The Oklahoma delegation strongly objects to both the House and Senate versions of health care reform legislation. Specifically objecting to “unfunded mandates” and “kickbacks” the letter dated Friday, January 21 to Rep Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives was crafted by Rep Mary Fallin and signed by all the members of the delegation. The letter follows:
January 21, 2010
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House of Representatives
H-232, U.S. Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Madame Speaker,
We the undersigned members of Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation, request your consideration of the implications unfunded mandates within health care legislation will have on state budgets. While we support health care reforms to lower costs and increase access to America’s health care system, Oklahomans need health reforms that reduce costs, not impose new ones. We believe such mandates will cripple Oklahoma’s state budget and reduce the quality of health care for our Medicaid enrollees, and therefore urge you to exclude any unfunded federal mandates from the final bill.
Both the House and Senate bills would increase health care coverage by expanding the Medicaid program and requiring states to pick up a portion of the tab, the cost of which the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated to be $26 billion. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority estimated this mandate would cost to the State of Oklahoma an additional $128 million each year. As a delegation, we are deeply concerned this mandate would force drastic funding cuts for valuable state programs and significantly deteriorate the choice and quality of Oklahomans’ health care programs.
Nationwide, states have been forced to face the harsh fiscal realities of the current economic recession. In December 2009, Oklahoma’s general revenue collections fell 31 percent below projections, forcing state agencies to cut their budgets by 10 percent. Critical services such as Oklahoma’s public safety are on the line. For example, 4,600 employees at the Department of Corrections are scheduled to be furloughed, leaving many facilities understaffed. We fear additional unfunded mandates imposed by a health care bill would exacerbate this situation and result in further cuts to critical education and infrastructure funding.
We also want to voice our objection to language in the Senate-passed health care bill that singles out three specific states for special treatment to help them offset the additional costs imposed by the Medicaid expansion. It is wrong to carve out special treatment for certain states and expect Oklahoma’s taxpayers to pay and we question the legality of these kickbacks. In the middle of a state budget crisis, our taxpayers should not be expected to finance back-room deals made in Washington.
We are all dedicated to improving the quality of health care in our nation by reducing costs and increasing access for American families and businesses, but an unfunded Medicaid expansion that bankrupts state budgets is precisely the wrong way to go. As a delegation, we stand ready to work with you on legitimate cost-saving reforms, but will oppose any attempt to saddle our state and our constituents with burdensome federal costs we simply cannot afford.
[Signed by the Oklahoma Congressional Delegation]
U.S. House of Representatives
District 1 Representative
District 2 Representative
District 3 Representative
District 4 Representative
District 5 Representative