Medical providers and hospitals across the state are bracing for the possibility they won't get a Medicaid payment next June. The Oklahoma Healthcare Authority estimates they are $35 million short this upcoming fiscal year.
Oklahoma Healthcare Authority actually got a slight increase in state budget appropriations for next year, but a sizable decrease in federal dollars means the agency is considering delaying all June 2018 Medicaid payments until the next fiscal year.
In rural Oklahoma, doctors are already scarce and many rely heavily on a monthly infusion from Medicaid to pay their bills. They would likely suffer the most without that June reimbursement.
“For those clinics, particularly those in the rural areas, they could say we won’t see patients this month,” says Dr. Steven Crawford, a family physician and legislative chair for the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians.
He says it's more likely doctors won't take a paycheck, or won't hire an open position for a month. But he says the delayed payment could certainly limit access during that time and the same is true for hospitals and nursing homes.
The Oklahoma Health Care Authority says they needed a $69 million increase in funding from the state to make up for the loss of federal dollars. In addition to pushing the June payment, they are also considering decreasing name brand prescriptions for adults. They aren't proposing a provider rate reduction at this time.
Despite his concerns Dr. Crawford says delaying the June payment may be the best option. But he cautions many of the doctors and hospitals who rely on these payments are already on life support.
“There are practices, if this would happen repeatedly, there certainly would be a risk of practices closing because they’re so low-margin they couldn’t survive.”
The Heath Care Authority board will vote on their final budget at the end of this month.