I believe it’s fair to argue that Democratic lawmakers this recently ended legislative session stood up strongly against Republican budgetary malfeasance and showed how the minority party in a deeply red state can be a force in a political arena dominated by ultra conservatives and the failed philosophy of trickle-down economics.
— OK Democratic Party (@OkDemocrats) May 3, 2016
House Minority Leader Scott Inman and Senate Minority Leader John Sparks gave the Republicans a lot of, well, a lot they couldn’t or didn’t want to handle. Here was Inman, for example, on the Republicans back in April:
Their failed political philosophy, which turns on the premise that Oklahoma can somehow cut its way to prosperity or borrow its way out of debt, has given us $1 billion of tax cuts for the wealthiest of Oklahomans.
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) May 17, 2016
More importantly, however, is that Democratic lawmakers stood up for Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and didn’t back down when some Republicans, including Gov. Mary Fallin, first supported it under the nomenclature of “rebalancing,” but then backed off the idea when it became apparent GOP lawmakers here weren’t going to have anything to do with Obamacare.
The GOP, of course, then counter-blamed Democrats for not passing the new $1.50 tax increase on a pack of cigarettes, which was initially part of the GOP Medicaid “rebalancing” deal, but it was too obvious at that point that it was GOP fiscal irresponsibility and internal chaos causing the problem, not the minority party so the tax increase didn’t pass. It was clearly the fault of the GOP. Importantly, Democrats did set up the possibility for major Medicaid expansion down the road.
It can’t be repeated enough: Medicaid expansion offered under the ACA is crucial to Oklahoma’s viability and quality of life. Until the state accepts the millions of dollars offered by the federal government for Medicaid, Oklahoma will continue as a state with poor health outcomes and mediocre medical access.
Medicaid expansion impacts us all from ensuring more people have health insurance to medical access for everyone, from keeping medical costs down for all patients to ensuring physicians and hospitals can continue to operate in both urban and rural areas. The GOP here has chosen to oppose such expansion based on ideological whimsy and a deep-seated hatred for the first African-American president in this country, but their opposition has a substantial negative impact on everyone, including people with employer-based health insurance.
The Oklahoman weighed in on the Medicaid issue with a recent editorial, advancing the extremist ideas of the right-wing Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), a think tank dedicated to serving the state’s wealthiest citizens and large corporations.
The first OCPA idea the editorial discusses is to conduct “robust” audits to determine Medicaid eligibility requirements are getting met, which is just the same old welfare-cheater rhetoric we hear from the GOP over and over again. It’s this type of argument that fuels the anger in the GOP base. It means nothing. Absolutely, there would be no big savings for Oklahoma because of audits.
The second idea is that hospitals, primarily in rural areas, that have a high percentage of Medicaid patients should be paid higher provider rates than those hospitals with fewer Medicaid patients. I’m unsure this would work since many rural patients, if extremely ill, wind up at urban hospitals to receive their most expensive treatment. I’m in favor of keeping rural hospitals open, of course, but the most expensive care is going to be at urban hospitals, and I don’t see micro-managing the provider rate as a big money saver for Oklahoma in particular.
But, anyway, so there you have it. Our health care crisis in Oklahoma is solved thanks to the great minds at The Oklahoman and OCPA. The Oklahoman editorial didn’t devote one word to the actual real physical toll on people without health insurance or medical access. No mention of human suffering or people dying of untreated diseases or other medical conditions. Those two organizations don’t do humanity.
I’m sticking with full Medicaid expansion under the ACA, which would offer health insurance for thousands and thousands of Oklahomans, whom The Oklahoman editorial board and the OCPA could care less about. I’m also hoping that one day soon this county will have a universal health care system for everyone. The ACA is an incremental step in that process, and it’s going to happen eventually despite GOP recalcitrance and its inhumane stances on medical care in Oklahoma and this country.