Privatization of Medicaid in Oklahoma? - MetroFamily Magazine
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Privatization of Medicaid in Oklahoma?

by Audra Beasley

Reading Time: 4 minutes 

Each legislative session, the Oklahoma House and Senate make decisions that impact your family. It is the important work we elected our representatives to do on our behalf. And our representatives that we elect need to hear from us when we feel that their decisions are going to benefit or harm our families. There are ways to get involved in these legislative issues, the first of which is to call and/or email your representative when you feel strongly about the issues up for votes at the Oklahoma state capitol.

Introduced this legislative session and authored by Sen. Jessica Garvin, Senate Bill 131 is seeking to create the Oklahomans Caring for Oklahomans Act, which would require the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to oversee the state’s Medicaid program and halt Gov. Kevin Stitt’s plan to outsource Medicaid care management to four insurance companies. SB 131 could impact many families who rely on health services for special medical needs for their children or themselves. The House of Representatives advanced the bill, co-authored by Rep. Marcus McEntire, with a vote of 73-17, to the Senate on April 21.

Below is one mother’s story about how she believes privatized care for Medicaid in Oklahoma would impact her family and other families who have children with special needs. If you are concerned, we encourage you to contact your representative or senator and voice your opinion today!

One mom’s fight against the privatization of Medicaid and what you can do if you’re concerned

We walk a dangerous line when we put the health and well-being of our children in the hands of for-profit corporations. That is the peril of allowing the governor’s outsourced Medicaid plan to be implemented. I’m asking the state Senate to support Senate Bill 131, which would assure that children with disabilities, like my son Max, continue to receive necessary medical treatment through SoonerCare.

Max, 4, was born with multiple and severe disabilities: spina bifida, hydrocephalus and Arnold Chiari Malformation II. His sacral defect caused multiple issues, including neurogenic bowel, a trabeculated bladder and severe nerve damage resulting in muscle weakness and motor delay. His medicine, together with his daily medical supplies, equipment and therapy is necessary for his health, well-being and rehabilitation.

In 2018, an annual CT scan with his neurosurgeon revealed Max was in shunt failure, even though he displayed no other signs. Within a few days, his shunt tubing was replaced, and he suffered no brain damage. A physician’s judgment and medical expertise should never be subject to question by a corporation with profit-driven incentive to reject services. But, that’s exactly what would happen under privatized Medicaid.

Max has regular and annual scheduled visits with his primary care physician and numerous specialists. Never has he been denied medical treatment, nor have we seen the type of delay in care or treatment due to a denial in insurance authorization that I’ve seen many times from other families whose children aren’t participants in SoonerCare. Max is thriving, happy and healthy, and I’m thankful for the excellent medical care he receives.

I serve on the Family Advisory Council for Oklahoma Children’s Hospital at OU Health, and I hold a seat on the Interagency Coordinating Council. The council governs SoonerStart, a program for children under age 3 born with disabilities and developmental delays in Oklahoma. I get to see the current issues, data and statistics more than most, and I’m fortunate to serve alongside leaders in this state who are dedicated to the health and education of our most vulnerable population.

I believe children born to health disparities deserve the very best care, and early medical intervention plays a key role in good health and rehabilitation. As a volunteer for Oklahomans living with disabilities, I have a different perspective than most. They need access to care and thoughtful planning and resources, and they deserve excellent medical intervention and treatment.

Although Oklahoma’s elderly, blind and disabled populations are not targeted by the initial rollout of privatized Medicaid, it is our understanding that all Medicaid recipients ultimately will be affected.

I believe it is the Legislature’s job to make tough decisions for the betterment of all Oklahomans, to balance bad decision-making, to right wrongs and to think of all when planning and lawmaking. I don’t believe our governor had the best interest of Oklahomans with disabilities in mind when carrying out his plan for managed care.

I’m asking the state Senate to stop this privatization plan, which would let four insurance companies dictate the care of all Medicaid recipients. SB 131, which has been overwhelmingly passed by the House of Representatives, would effectively kill the governor’s plan.

I want what’s best for Max and all other children living with disabilities in Oklahoma. They all deserve thoughtful consideration and support. I’m confident our senators will do what’s right and follow the House’s action on SB 131.

To learn insights on how to make your voice heard, listen to our Raising OKC Kids video podcast with local parents Torie Shoecraft and Camal Pennington as they talk about how to find out what bills or issues affecting families like privatized care for Medicaid are on the table, the most impactful ways to contact your legislators and the power of both your individual voice and the collective community voice.

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