OKLAHOMA CITY, June 23, 2017 — Expressing “grave concern,” former Attorney General Drew Edmondson today launched a petition drive aimed at showing Oklahomans’ opposition to a provision of the proposed federal health care law that will put rural hospitals and the health of nearly a million Oklahomans in jeopardy.
The bill, which could come up for a vote in Washington as early as next week, would significantly cut Medicaid funding. As of May 2017, almost 822,600 Oklahomans were enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program, including more than 547,000 children, according to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.
“Insurance industry lobbyists own Washington,” Edmondson said. “The plan announced by Senate leaders today makes it clear that they’re willing to sacrifice rural and low-income communities to line their already overflowing pockets. If we don’t stand up now, if we don’t let Washington know that these aren’t our values, there is no doubt that the health of Oklahomans will suffer. I believe lives are in jeopardy.”
Edmondson, a candidate for governor in 2018, is asking Oklahomans to sign a petition opposing the proposed changes. That petition will be sent to Oklahoma’s two U.S. Senators ahead of the planned vote on the measure.
“Senators Lankford and Inhofe are in Washington to represent us,” Edmondson said. “They need to hear from us. It’s critical, now more than ever, that we let them know where we stand. It is unconscionable to cut health care funding for nearly half a million Oklahoma children.”
Edmondson said the plan also puts rural hospitals at risk. According to an April report from the Oklahoma Hospital Association, there are 65 rural hospitals in Oklahoma. Of those, 53 have negative operating margins, and 37 have less than 14 days cash on hand. Reasons for those struggles include uncollectable debt and reimbursement cuts through programs including Medicaid.
The proposed law would also allow for cuts to maternity benefits and mental health treatment reimbursement, which are currently required under the Affordable Care Act.
“The impact this proposal would have on Oklahomans is immeasurable,” Edmondson said. “It would negatively impact health care for women, it would disproportionately impact rural and poor citizens and further damage our already tenuous mental health care system. We have to say no to Washington and the big businesses who own their votes. It is time for honorable men and women to stand up.”
Edmondson is encouraging Oklahomans to sign a petition encouraging Senators Lankford and Inhofe to vote no on the measure when it comes up for a vote, likely next week. The petition is available at https://drewforoklahoma.com/healthcare.
Drew Edmondson served as Oklahoma’s Attorney General from 1994 to 2010. He is most known for taking on Big Tobacco, including a role on the negotiating team for the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement that changed the way tobacco companies market their products to children. To protect the settlement money received by Oklahoma, Edmondson led the charge to establish the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, which constitutionally protected the settlement money and ensured that it can only be spent on public health. To date, the Tobacco Trust balance stands at more than $1 billion. He has made a career out of standing up to big business, including battles against Wall Street and corporate polluters. Learn more at www.drewforoklahoma.com.
More information about Medicaid enrollment in Oklahoma is available here.