Oklahoma health care leaders say lives could very well be hanging in the balance after the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled against a cigarette price hike that was passed in the final hours of last legislative session.
The so-called fee would have raised the price of a pack of cigarettes $1.50. The Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional, because it violated a clear rule which barred lawmakers from passing revenue raising measures in the last five days of the legislative session.
Republicans at the Capitol attempted to brand the price increase a fee to attempt to make an end run around the constitutional rule.
Estimates show the state would lose $519 million in state and federal funds without the price increase and the added benefit of curbing Oklahoma's high smoking rate.
"We want to make sure they get this right," President of the Oklahoma State Medical Association Dr. Kevin Taubman said. “For us it’s an impact to improve the health of Oklahomans because tobacco is our number one risk factor leading to the most mortal events for a majority of our population.”
Taubman isn't alone either. Officials from healthcare agencies around the state are calling for swift solutions. Their statements flooded social media and the inboxes of media members’.
CEO of the Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers Nico Gomez said in a statement, "Funding for our facilities and for Medicaid has already been cut to the bone... we can't go any lower."
Joe Dorman, the CEO of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy called on the integrity of state lawmakers saying in part, “[o]ur policymakers have a moral imperative to fix this problem…”
The President of the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association Kenneth E. Calabrese said simply, “Every day that goes by without a fiscal solution is a day our patients suffer.”
Governor Mary Fallin signaled a special session was all but inevitable in order to replace the lost revenue. A spokesperson for her office said there is no time table set for when she could call legislators back to find a solution.