Gov. Kevin Stitt, although vocal in his opposition to Medicaid expansion, has named as deputy secretary of health and mental health an individual who has voiced support for Medicaid expansion, criticized welfare work requirements, and indicated he views gun control as a component of health policy.
In a release, Stitt announced that Carter Kimble will join the governor’s office and be “tasked with working with the governor and cabinet secretaries on a health care plan to improve health outcomes by increasing access for all Oklahomans to affordable coverage and modernizing health services delivered by state agencies.”
“I am pleased to welcome Carter to our team as we work to move the needle in health outcomes in Oklahoma,” Stitt said. “Carter’s vast experience in healthcare policy and his impressive work ethic will help us to ensure we are taking the necessary steps to deliver core services to Oklahomans in an efficient and effective manner and accomplish our goal to be Top Ten in healthcare.”
Kimble most recently served as director of health policy for the OSU/A&M Board of Regents.
According to his LinkedIn page, Kimble worked for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the state’s Medicaid agency, from 2010 to 2015, rising to the position of director of government relations.
From October 2015 to April 2017 he served in the Office of State and Federal Policy at the Oklahoma State Department of Health. Financial problems at the agency arose in late 2017 that ultimately led to the discovery of fiscal mismanagement and the resignation of several officials. Agency leaders were found to have falsified financial records to hide funds from the Legislature. Kimble was not among those identified as culpable for the agency’s problems.
As governor, Stitt has opposed expansion of Oklahoma’s Medicaid program to include able-bodied adults. The text of Stitt’s February State of the State address included the following: “While Medicaid expansion currently stops at a 90 percent federal match, we cannot assume that it will remain this high forever. The estimated $150 million price tag today for Oklahoma to expand Medicaid could leave us down the road fronting more than $1 billion when the federal government pulls back on its commitment. They’ve done it before and they will do it again.”
Stitt has since reiterated his opposition to Medicaid expansion on several occasions. At a press conference in May, he said, “There is a great solution for Oklahoma and what that looks like, I don’t know yet. But the right solution is not just straight-up Medicaid expansion like some people want Oklahomans to think.”
Stitt has said his administration is working on a health plan that could be unveiled around August 31. At the May press conference where he stressed his opposition to Medicaid expansion, Stitt was asked if his alternative plan would be designed to obtain the federal matching funds designated for Medicaid expansion. The governor responded, “No.”
Kimble appears to hold a different view of Medicaid expansion.
On his Twitter account on Feb. 21, Kimble retweeted a statement from the president of the Commonwealth Fund that claimed, “States that expand Medicaid realize economic benefits not only in increased federal funds to provide health care for low-income Americans, but also as a result of economic activity, like new jobs.” The tweet included a link to a report urging that states expand Medicaid to able-bodied adults. That report notes nine Medicaid-expansion states are using taxes to cover the state costs of expansion.
In a Jan. 7, tweet, Kimble wrote that Medicaid is designed to not only provide “access to care and financially underpinning portions of the health care sector” but also “fight poverty by providing more firm financial footing.”
On Sept. 21, 2018, Kimble tweeted that research showed “Medicaid expansion improves financial standing.”
On March 30, 2018, Kimble tweeted about a study that examined whether officials regretted their decision in Medicaid-expansion states. Kimble wrote, “I’m glad someone put some rigor to disproving these outrageous claims but it’s really a dumb question. Of course, states don’t regret taking an influx of federal funds to offset expenditures they were previously paying full freight for.”
Kimble has also been a critic of imposing work requirements on Medicaid beneficiaries.
In 2018, after a federal judge halted implementation of work requirements for Medicaid recipients in Kentucky, Kimble wrote a column that suggested the effort to impose similar work requirements in Oklahoma should be abandoned. Kimble wrote that “a prerequisite to receive medical assistance benefits runs directly counter to the congressional intent of providing affordable access to care for the poor. I would be hard-pressed to believe that work requirements for Oklahomans on SoonerCare have much of a future, especially as long as Oklahoma refuses to expand Medicaid.”
In a May 2, 2018 tweet on the federal judge’s ruling on Kentucky’s work requirements, Kimble wrote, “Just to be clear this is the Feds telling states that if you didn't expand Medicaid, implementing work requirements is inappropriate.”
Kimble has also indicated support for gun control as part of health policy.
On March 23, 2018, Kimble retweeted the medical journal, The Lancet, touting an article with the headline, “It’s time for a change of message, it’s time for #GunSafetyNow.” The article linked in the tweet declared, “The harm caused by guns in America is undoubtedly a public health issue—an issue of safety.”
Efforts to reach Kimble for comment over two days were unsuccessful.