Gov. Stitt To Unveil Medicaid Block Grant Plan, Source Tells News 9

Wednesday, January 29th 2020, 1:15 pm
By: Grant Hermes

The governor will unveil his plan to block grant Medicaid during a Thursday news conference alongside Trump administration health officials, a state health official said on Wednesday.

The official agreed to talk on background because they were not authorized to be quoted officially.

Gov. Kevin Stitt, R-Oklahoma, will announce the plan alongside Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, White House Domestic Policy Council Director Joe Grogan and Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, in Washington D.C.

According to Stitt’s office, he left on Wednesday for his capital visit.

Stitt has floated his plan to block grant Medicaid for several months as a response to both the Affordable Care Act and the popular push to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma.

“The solution for Oklahoma is block grant to bring more federal dollars into our state in a different way and then we can define through co-pays through work requirements, we can focus on getting dollars in the Oklahomans that they need and also protecting tax payers from any future change in laws from the federal government,” Stitt said in November on KOKC Radio.

A block grant would mean the state would request a single lump sum of money to be distributed to Medicaid recipients rather than a rolling payout from the federal government, like how the system currently works.

Match rates for states average out at 90% matching but in the past have been closer to 60 to 70% in Oklahoma, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Stitt has warned of the possibility the federal government might suddenly change the rate, leaving state taxpayers to foot the bill. However, rates have been stable over the course of the program’s history.

Oklahoma opted out of the expansion under former Gov. Mary Fallin, R, meaning that despite paying taxes into the system, Oklahomans are not receiving the full return on Medicaid payments.

Stitt’s plan will likely follow along new guidelines from HHS and CMS, said the health official.

National outlets have said Verma will issue a letter allowing states to apply for waivers for a defined payout for the health care service, even as officials within CMS have expressed concern over how to market the plan to states and recipients.

The reason for Cassidy’s presence is still unclear, although his is a member on the Senate Committee on Finance which deals with CMS programs. He was the author and shepherd of an amendment to gut the ACA and redistribute Medicaid expansion money back to the states. It would have also returned control of Medicaid funds to the states while capping spending. In essence, a block grant.

Stitt will also be starting out of the gate behind the push to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma. The effort put expansion to a vote of the people. State Question 802 recently passed the required number of signatures to make it on either the June or November 2020 ballot. Stitt will decide which ballot the state question will go on.

The news conference is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. central time on Thursday. 

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