This past month, I announced Oklahoma would not implement two key components of President Obama’s health care law: the creation of a health insurance exchange and the expansion of Medicaid. I’m writing this month to let you know why that decision is in the best interests of Oklahoma taxpayers and families.
For several months, my staff and I have worked with other lawmakers, Oklahoma stakeholders and health care experts across the country to determine the best course of action for Oklahoma in regards to both a possible health insurance exchange and the potential expansion of Medicaid.
Our priority has been to ascertain what can be done to increase quality and access to health care, contain costs, and do so without placing an undue burden on taxpayers or the state. As I have stated many times before, it is my firm belief that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) fails to further these goals, and will in fact decrease the quality of health care across the United States while contributing to the nation’s growing deficit crisis.
Despite my ongoing opposition to the federal health care law, however, the state of Oklahoma found itself legally obligated to either build an exchange that is PPACA compliant and approved by the Obama Administration, or to default to an exchange run by the federal government. This choice was forced on the people of Oklahoma by the Obama Administration in spite of the fact that voters have overwhelmingly expressed their opposition to the federal health care law time and time again.
After careful consideration, I decided last month that Oklahoma would not pursue the creation of its own health insurance exchange. As I said at the time, any exchange that is PPACA compliant will necessarily be ‘state-run’ in name only and would require Oklahoma resources, staff and tax dollars to implement. It does not benefit Oklahoma taxpayers to actively support and fund a new government program that would ultimately be under the control of the federal government and that is opposed by a clear majority of Oklahomans. Furthermore, the creation of such an exchange would further the implementation of a law that threatens to erode both the quality of American health care and the fiscal stability of the nation.
With regards to Medicaid, I also announced that Oklahoma would not be participating in the Obama Administration’s proposed expansion. Such an expansion would have been unaffordable, costing the state of Oklahoma $475 million between now and 2020, with escalating annual expenses in subsequent years. It would also have furthered Oklahoma’s reliance on federal money that may or may not have been available in the future given the dire fiscal problems facing the federal government. On a state level, massive new costs associated with Medicaid expansion would also have required cuts to important government priorities such as education and public safety. Finally, the proposed Medicaid expansion offers no meaningful reform to a massive entitlement program already contributing to the out-of-control spending of the federal government.
Moving forward, it is important for the state of Oklahoma to pursue two actions simultaneously. The first will be to continue support for Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s ongoing legal challenge of PPACA. General Pruitt’s lawsuit raises different Constitutional questions than previous legal challenges, and both he and I remain optimistic that Oklahoma’s challenge can succeed.
Our second and equally important task will be to pursue state-based solutions that improve health outcomes and contain costs for Oklahoma families. Serious reform, for instance, should be pursued in the area of Medicaid and public health, where effective chronic disease prevention and management programs could address the trend of skyrocketing medical bills linked to avoidable hospital and emergency room visits. I look forward to working with legislative leaders and lawmakers in both parties to pursue Oklahoma health care solutions for Oklahoma families.