Press Release

   

For Media Inquiries, Contact:

Sheree Powell, DHS Director of Communications (405) 521-3027

Jo Kilgore, OHCA Public Information Director (405) 522-7474

Jeff Dismukes, OKMHSAS (405) 522-3908


May 3, 2016

 

Health and Human Services Agency Directors unite behind Medicaid programs

 

Oklahoma City—The Directors of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, The Department of Human Services, and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services united Tuesday behind a program they all have in common—Medicaid—which provides a host of critical public health and safety services to more than a million Oklahomans through their agencies and contractors.  The directors were invited to speak at the “Medicaid Matters Rally” by families, advocates, and providers who came to the capitol to express their concerns over potentially unprecedented cuts to services funded through Medicaid.

“I appreciate each and every one who has taken time out of their day to show support. It’s encouraging to know that others are willing to step up and ask what can be done to find solutions,” said Nico Gomez, OHCA CEO. “As illustrated by the remarks today, we work hand-in-hand with our partner agencies to serve the whole person across a continuum of services. Cuts to one program can often result in increased costs in another. In some cases, there may be no other programs to serve our loved ones. This is a moral issue, and I'm inspired by the spirit of Oklahomans uniting to care for one another.”

The OHCA has proposed a 25 percent provider rate reduction in order to balance their SFY17 budget.  Gomez has provided a plan, called the Medicaid Rebalancing Act of 2020, which would decrease enrollment in SoonerCare (Oklahoma Medicaid) while increasing the number of Oklahomans covered under commercial plans. If passed, a proposed cigarette tax would be used to stabilize provider rates and fund the Act aimed at ensuring long-term sustainability of the programs serving vulnerable Oklahomans and improving the fiscal strength of the state.

“The potential impacts of cuts to our programs and the people we serve are sobering,” said Ed Lake, DHS Director. “The Medicaid home and community-based waiver programs administered by our agency enables seniors and people with disabilities to receive supports to live independently in their homes and communities, providing an alternative to or delaying the need for institutional care. If these services are cut, many of the more than 23,500 people served would be facing placement in nursing homes or intermediate care facilities for people with disabilities.  However, if the OHCA also has to cut rates for these facilities, it is entirely possible there will be no place for our most vulnerable Oklahomans to go for care. The domino effect from cutting these programs will be significant.” 

DHS provides Medicaid waiver services which means the people who receive the services qualify for Medicaid and nursing home level of care, but Medicaid has “waived” some of the requirements so that services can be provided in home-based settings. More than 18,000 persons who are aging receive home health, nutrition, and other support services through the Advantage Medicaid waiver. Over 5,300 people with developmental disabilities receive home-based care, specialized therapies, and vocational support services through the Developmental Disabilities waiver programs.

"Already, too many Oklahomans are unable to access appropriate mental health and substance abuse services," said White.  "The result is increased negative consequences for individuals and families, and for our state."

White points to the resulting negative consequences of untreated behavioral health issues and increased burden on other community and state functions such as overcrowded emergency rooms, increased law enforcement engagement, rising incarceration rates and more children entering foster care.  ODMHSAS has already been forced to slash $22.8 million from its current budget.

"Just last week we implemented a 13.5 percent rate cut for behavioral health treatment providers and placed caps on treatment services that will impact 73,000 Oklahomans," said White.  "The fact is that it costs more to address the poor outcomes than to provide treatment in the first place."

That is why it is imperative that revenue be identified and made available for appropriation by July 1 in order to reverse these recent devastating cuts and prevent future loss of services."