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State of Health

SoonerCare Provides Vital Care To Oklahoma Children

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More than 600,000 Oklahoma children rely on SoonerCare, the state's Medicaid. In fact, it was a lifeline for one Oklahoma family.

"Everybody she meets, she has to make them smile," said Tiffany Funk.

On the outside, Tiffany Funk's four-year-old daughter Lily is all smiles, but on the inside, she's struggling.

"Whenever she was born, we had no idea," said Jessie Funk, Lily's dad.

Six hours after their daughter was born, Jessie and Tiffany found out Lily only had half a heart.

"Thought we were going to have a healthy baby just to find out that she's going to be fighting the rest of her life to live," Tiffany said.

Since then, Lily has had four open heart surgeries, and the medical problems didn't end there. Last year, she was rushed to the hospital after suffering a stroke and cardiac arrest.

"The scariest day of my life," Tiffany said. "It took a long time for me to cope with it. It would play over and over in my mind."

While trying to keep their daughter healthy, the bills started to pile up. Then, Jessie lost his job.

"It's was nerve racking and it was scary but I had a peace about it that everything was going to be alright," Jessie said.

"SoonerCare offers really a bridge to healthcare during those times," said Becky Pasternik-Ikard, CEO of the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority.

SoonerCare is managed by OHCA. The program pays for everything from medical and dental needs to hospital visits and medications.

"We provide comprehensive medically necessary healthcare for these children," Pasternik-Ikard said.

In 2016, the state covered more than a million Oklahomans through SoonerCare and more than half of those were children. The program has seen major budget cuts, losing more than $400 million since 2014. For the 50,000 providers across the state, that means a more than 10 percent cut to their reimbursement rate.

"We know that if your network provider erodes it can impact your ability for timely care," she said.

At this point, those past cuts haven't affected access to care for the children who need it most, like Lily did.

"It was real nice when we had that and didn't have to worry about the finances of the healthcare," said Jessie.

Today, Lily still needs constant care through therapies, multiple checkups and one day a heart transplant.

"She's a fighter, she smiles through everything," said Tiffany.

Jessie got another job and admits the insurance isn't as good as SoonerCare, but he's happy he's able to provide for his family again.

"I'll take any expense I need to for her, it doesn't matter to me, I'll pay it," he said.

Lawmakers are still hashing out the state budget so it's unclear at this point if the program will receive additional cuts.

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