One Oklahoman running for governor is encouraging citizens to speak out against the new federal healthcare bill proposed by the Senate.
Democrat Drew Edmondson launched an online petition against the proposal.
“I think this would close hospitals,” he said.
Senate majority leaders are hoping to vote on the bill this week, but a handful of Republicans have already said they plan to vote “no.” Edmondson’s goal is to add Oklahoma's senators to that list.
The petition is addressed to both James Lankford and Jim Inhofe, calling on them to listen to the needs of their constituents. As it is written, the bill would phase out expanded funding for Medicaid put in place by Obamacare, which impacts more than 800,000 Oklahomans.
“I don’t think we can stand another hit like the loss of federal Medicaid dollars,” Edmondson said. “I feel that would be a severe problem for the state of Oklahoma.”
Edmondson said the bill would also result in cuts to funding at rural hospitals, which may be forced to close their doors in some communities. He referenced a recent Oklahoma Health Care Authority report that shows 53 of the 65 rural hospitals in the state are operating in the red, and 37 have less than 14 days cash on hand in case of emergency.
“If hospitals lose those dollars and have to close their doors, everybody in that community is impacted, not just the ones on Medicaid,” Edmondson said.
Right now, Lankford and Inhofe say they have not made up their minds about the Senate bill. They both released statements emphasizing the need to replace Obamacare, mainly due to insurance costs.
Lankford said in his statement:
Insurance markets are collapsing under the Affordable Care Act. As time goes on, more insurance companies pull out of the Obamacare exchanges and healthcare costs continue to rise. This year, about one-third of the counties across America, including all 77 counties in Oklahoma, have just one choice of insurer in the exchange. Oklahoma is experiencing some of the most shocking rate hikes in the nation, with a premium increase of 76 percent just this year, on top of a 35 percent increase last year. As the market gets ready to release plans and prices for 2018, it’s more important than ever to stop the continued harm from Obamacare and improve healthcare choices and outcomes for the American people. Congress should pass a bill that provides a smooth transition from the Affordable Care Act to a better system that provides more affordable coverage options for everyone, with the goal in mind of doing no harm to current enrollees as the transition occurs. In the days ahead, I will analyze this healthcare working draft to ensure that it is affordable and practical for Oklahomans of all socioeconomic levels and all health conditions.
Inhofe said in his statement:
Oklahomans are hurting from Obamacare. With just one insurer left in the entire state, Obamacare premiums rose 76 percent last year and they have risen 201 percent since 2013. The Republican-led Senate is committed to repealing and replacing Obamacare, which will help to stabilize collapsing insurance markets, make health insurance more affordable and free the American people from the burdensome Obamacare mandates. I am continuing to review the details of the bill text released today and look forward to working with my colleagues in the coming days to address the crisis of Obamacare.
News 9 reached out to Edmondson’s fellow 2018 gubernatorial candidates for their take on the healthcare proposal.
Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb, a Republican, said: "Obamacare has been an unmitigated disaster resulting in higher prices and only one insurance company in the state participating in the marketplace. Instead of demagoguing federal issues, I am focused on making state government more efficient with our tax dollars, diversifying our economy, and improving educational opportunities for all Oklahomans."
State Rep. Scott Inman, a Democrat, said: "I'm calling on our Senators Lankford and Inhofe to oppose a health care bill that would increase, by millions, the number uninsured citizens in our nation, would increase by hundreds of millions the amount of uncompensated care our hospitals, particularly in rural communities, are required to provide, and would do nothing to protect the lives of citizens. The health care bill revealed this week sets our nation and our health care system on the wrong path. It must be defeated."
Libertarian candidate Chris Powell questioned Edmondson’s interest in federal issues, but said he tends to agree with Sen. Rand Paul’s opposition to the bill. Powell said, however, that there are “bigger fish to fry” with state issues.
Libertarian candidate Joseph Maldonado, also known as Joe Exotic, says he is tired of laws being created behind closed doors. “Everything should come to a stop until the American people get to examine the bill,” he said.
News 9 has not yet received responses from the other five candidates in the race.