Dr. Brian Lepley has been a pediatrician in Oklahoma City for 31 years treating generations of families. On June 1 of this year, he is expecting to close his practice due to cuts on SoonerCare reimbursement.
Lepley and his wife, a family nurse practitioner, have grown their practice from ground up. On Tuesday, March 29, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority announced that provider rates for Oklahoma Medicaid will be cut 25 percent.
A statement from OHCA writes, “The Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) will begin its public notification process to reduce SoonerCare (Oklahoma Medicaid) provider rates by 25 percent effective June 1, 2016, in anticipation of the state fiscal 2017 appropriation.”
Lepley said this isn’t the first time cuts have been made, but this is the worst he’s seen it. He said, “They whittled away at the reimbursement for these kids to where I literally can’t pay my bills. I can’t give my staff raises and I’ll have to let people go.”
But he said his business is only a small part of the problem. He is most worried about the hundreds of thousands of children in Oklahoma who will be losing a doctor, many who will have no choice but to close like him.
“These are the most vulnerable kids in our society,” said Lepley. More than 1200 of his patients rely on SoonerCare.
Rachel Bartlett brings her children to Dr. Lepley’s office. She has been a foster parent to 27 kids and has adopted 7 children. She trusts their care with the Lepley family. “We love it here. They’re amazing so I’m not looking forward to finding a new pediatrician,” said Bartlett.
She said her children have a lot of needs, especially growing up in foster care, that now losing health care is detrimental to their growth and future.
Dr. Lepley agrees saying these drastic cuts on SoonerCare are hurting the next generation of Oklahomans. He said, “I’ve always treated them just the same regardless of their insurance and that is what they deserve.”
He said it is unlikely that his practice can stay open, but he is hoping for a miracle with lawmakers. Lepley has to decide by Friday whether he will continue to run his business or not. Medicaid requires a 60-day notice if he chooses not to continue, so Lepley is waiting on the decision at the Capitol on Thursday.
OHCA CEO Nico Gomez said in a press release, “I do not take these cuts lightly; as the state’s largest health insurer, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority underpins the entire fabric of the state’s health care system that serves all Oklahomans. I worry about the infrastructure of our health care system in light of these cuts.”