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February 5, 2013

Dems. say take politics out of Okla. Medicaid plan

(Continued)

OKLAHOMA CITY —

"Expanding Medicaid as proposed by the president would mean that a huge sum of money would be diverted from other priorities, like education and public safety, as well as existing health care programs," Fallin said.

She said the state already expects to enroll 60,000 Medicaid eligible Oklahomans in the next few years to avoid taxes and fines imposed by the health care law and she has proposed a $40 million increase for the state's Medicaid provider, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, to meet the costs of the additional enrollees as well as the rising costs of medical treatment and fixed expenses.

But Inman said he believes Fallin is overstating the costs and that the benefits of expanding Medicaid far outweigh any costs.

The Senate's Democratic leader, Sen. Sean Burrage of Claremore, said he believes it's a bad idea not to expand Medicaid and that more people need to become familiar with the issue.

"We are trying to raise public awareness," Burrage said. He said many Oklahomans who would become eligible for Medicaid under the proposed changes are not aware of Fallin's decision and its consequences to them.

Rejection of the Medicaid expansion plan has been criticized by hospitals and health officials who say the cost of caring for Oklahoma's uninsured already is falling on hospitals in the form of uncompensated care and leading to higher health care costs for the insured.

"I think it's disingenuous," Burrage said.

A group known as the Coalition for Medicaid Expansion plans to rally at the State Capitol on Tuesday. Organizers say they hope to attract as many 500 people to demonstrate support for expanding Medicaid.

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