| May 12, 2011

Oklahoma’s Medicaid expenditure growth unsustainable

Oklahoma’s Medicaid program – known as SoonerCare − is growing at a staggering rate, making the program nearly unsustainable.

According to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s FY-2010 Annual Report, total program expenditures grew 169 percent between 2000 and 2010, while the state’s share of expenditures grew 165 percent during the same time span. By contrast, the state’s gross state product (GSP) – one measure of economic growth − grew only 63 percent during roughly the same period (2000-08), according to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. The rapid growth in Medicaid expenditures crowds out state expenditures in other areas, such as transportation and education. In other words, every dollar the state spends on Medicaid is a dollar that cannot be either returned to the taxpayer or spent on other programs. In fact, during the same time period (2000-10), state appropriations for common education increased only 37 percent, while state appropriations for transportation decreased by nearly 40 percent.


And, of course, this expenditure growth doesn’t even take into account the massive expansion of Medicaid as required by Obamacare in 2014, when the program will be opened to all citizens with incomes up to 138 percent (133 percent plus a 5 percent income disregard) of the federal poverty level (FPL). Oklahoma needs flexibility to make real cost saving reforms to our Medicaid program−but flexibility can only come through federal relief. Now is the time for Oklahoma’s governor, legislative leaders, executive branch leaders and congressional delegation to lead an unrelenting effort to obtain federal waivers that will allow the state to make much-needed reforms before this program bankrupts the state.

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