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Editorial: Don’t privatize Oklahoma Medicaid management

Editorial: Don’t privatize Oklahoma Medicaid management

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Medicaid Matters Rally (copy)

A woman takes part in a Medicaid Matters rally at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City. JIM BECKEL/The Oklahoman file

We oppose privatizing Medicaid management in Oklahoma.

Gov. Kevin Stitt's people have rammed a $2 billion privatization scheme through the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, despite objections from his own legislators. A group including the Oklahoma State Medical Association is asking the Oklahoma Supreme Court to block the action because it didn't have proper legislative authorization.

That's the sort of legal stumbling block that has caught Stitt in the past ... as in all those now void gaming compacts he signed without legislative authority.

Authorized or not, Medicaid privatization is bad policy based on a flawed assumption — that that state can save money by putting a private intermediary between its costs and medical providers. That only works if fewer people get treated or they get treated on the cheap, and neither of those scenarios fits the proper purpose of Medicaid. 

It's a plan that has all the charm of private prisons, except in the case the victims are the sick. It's an inappropriate delegation of the government's duties and the taxpayers' money.

Stitt says privatization is meant to make sure the state's expanding Medicaid program results in healthier Oklahomans, and who could disagree with that goal?

But the history of privatization in Oklahoma tells us it will not work that way. When we went down this road before, physicians — especially in rural Oklahoma — refused to take Medicaid patients, forcing sick poor people to either drive long distances or put off treatment until their conditions drove them to emergency rooms, the most expensive and least successful place for medical care. 

In fact, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority has historically been highly efficient, as has been shown by a series of federal audits. It has taken those ideas proven effective by private Medicaid management in other states and put them to use here.

That being the case, the only reason we can see for private management is to enrich the private managers at the expense of Oklahoma's poor, its aged, its disabled and its children.

Private management of Medicaid has been tried in Oklahoma. It was a failure. We shouldn't need to hit ourselves in the head again to know that a hammer isn't a good comb.

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Vaccination is safe, effective and free, the editorial says. It protects the individual against a potentially deadly disease. It prevents spread of the infection to friends, family and even strangers encountered. It decreases the chance of an evolving virus from attacking society again.

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Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado needs to show more discretion about who he speaks to and who he appears with, the editorials says. Further, he should leave his uniform in the closet and wear a business suit when attending speaking engagements where there's any chance that his comments or his appearance with a controversial organization could be misread. 

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