It was a busy week for the state legislature. The main focus was on the numbers specifically, the $1.3 Billion dollar budget deficit and a proposal by the state’s Medicaid agency to cut provider rates by 25%. Experts say that would have a devastating impact on the poor and force dozens of nursing facilities to close.
Thursday, some lawmakers met with the head of the Medicaid program. One of the proposals is to take 175,000 Oklahomans off Medicaid and put them onto the exchange.
“Taking people off Medicaid and putting them in a program where they’re paying something, they’ve got skin in the game. They’re paying a co-pay,” said Senator Brian Bingman President (R) Pro Tempore. “I think there’s a lot of positives but again the devil’s in the details.”
House Speaker Jeff Hickman (R) said, “I think we’re going to look at that. We will consider that. We will be discussing that. Obviously the key factor is, ‘How do you pay for it?’”
Democrats say that’s easy; accept federal Medicaid expansion dollars.
“It’s like a bag of money sitting on your porch,” said Representative Richard Morrisette (D) District 92, “You say, ‘No I’m sorry, close the door, ‘I don’t want it ok?’ That’s stupid. I’m gonna repeat this. Stupid.”
Lawmakers also passed a bill out of committee that would create a Blue alert to help police find criminals who injure police officers then take off.
“Just the same with an Amber Alert or a Silver Alert,” Senator Loveless (R) District 45 explained, “If somebody sees that person they can notify. That way more eyes are out there looking for that person.”
But the bulk of the talks this week focused on bridging the budget gap. On the table, lawmakers say, almost everything including pulling back tax incentives.
“You know it’s hard to say right now but we’re shooting for a big number,” Bingman said, “The last few years we’ve been through this process we don’t see major results but our goal is to see somewhere in the $100 Million range.”
Off the table?
“We will not support any cuts to common education any greater than 5%,” Hickman said, “Obviously it’s a lot of information that members are trying to digest. The situation is incredibly serious as we all know.”