Could More Tobacco Tax Help Fund OK Hospitals?

Friday, April 8th 2016, 8:51 am
By: News 9

The Oklahoma budget crisis is affecting more than our education system, it's also hurting hospitals. So far, seven have filed for bankruptcy and two have closed. But could another tax on cigarettes help?

Several people in the healthcare industry believe a proposed cigarette tax could help fund hospitals. The state has cut 14 percent of Medicaid funding in the past two years. And coming up this summer, the state could cut another 25 percent.

One hospital in Tulsa stands to lose $18 million this July which could mean layoffs. 

The Oklahoma Hospital Association said the increased cigarette tax would add $182 million each year to the state budget. Supporters said the added money will help tremendously.

"Which would raise the necessary dollars from the state side, and then they would be matched with federal dollars in order to allow us to expand insure Oklahoma," said Kevin Gross, Hillcrest CEO. "We're not going to be able to balance the state budget by continuing to reduce reimbursement to hospitals."

With all the potential success, there are still those who oppose the proposed tax. Convenience stores, like Quiktrip, said the money wouldn't go to all hospitals, stating 70 percent of all taxes on tribe tobacco products goes back to the tribes.