Oklahomans learned this week that expanding Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act was not the budget-busting exercise its critics made it out to be.
Kevin Corbett, chief executive officer at Oklahoma Health Care Authority, told lawmakers on Monday the $164 million they appropriated for the program remains untouched in a state agency savings account. The agency has paid for Medicaid expansion up to this point with savings realized by implementing the program.
Corbett said most of those savings were generated by shifting about 65,000 Oklahomans whose health care coverage was provided by Insure Oklahoma to the state's expanded Medicaid program. The federal government picks up 90% of the costs of Medicaid coverage — money returned to Oklahoma taxpayers.
About 170,000 low-income Oklahomans have qualified for Medicaid since eligibility was expanded through the initiative petition process — the Health Care Authority projects total enrollment of about 215,000. Voters grew weary of scare tactics used by those who put their political agendas above the public interests, and their demands appear to be paying off.
State Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City, said the new program has been implemented without having to add any new employees to the state's payroll. He also wondered why Gov. Kevin Stitt thought it would be a good idea to pay a third-party manager $150 million to implement the program.
We are wondering the same thing, but we're satisfied with the success we've seen to date. Our hope is that lawmakers will find a way to carry over from this year unused appropriated funds into the next fiscal year.
Expanded Medicaid appears to benefit not only those who now have access to health care, but all Oklahoma taxpayers.