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Oklahoma's Medicaid waiver puts public health at risk

​If approved, it would result in enrollment freezes, delays in care, and fewer covered benefits

ACS CAN submitted comments this week to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) urging the agency to reject Oklahoma’s SoonerCare 2.0 Healthy Adult Opportunity Section 1115 waiver application.

Oklahoma is the first state to file a waiver application seeking CMS approval to implement guidelines released by the administration in January which would fundamentally alter the Medicaid program.

A statement from Lisa Lacasse (pictured here), president of ACS CAN, follows:

“If approved, Oklahoma’s 1115 waiver would be detrimental to public health in the state. Current events have shone a spotlight on the importance of access to health insurance coverage, as well as the health disparities that exist when it comes to accessing health care in this country. Oklahoma’s waiver is a step in the wrong direction in addressing these problems.

“The SoonerCare 2.0 application includes several changes to the Medicaid program under the auspices of more state flexibility, but in reality would lead to enrollees paying more for coverage and would cap Medicaid funding, resulting in enrollment freezes, delays in care, and fewer covered benefits. Capped funding could also lead to freezes in services, which for cancer patients could mean inability to access their lifesaving treatment and ultimately, lower chances of survival.

“The application also includes administrative reporting (work) requirements, which would create more red tape for Medicaid enrollees and likely result in qualified individuals losing their health coverage. If approved, cancer patients, who are often unable to work while in active treatment, may find themselves without access to the program.

“For countless Oklahomans, Medicaid is a lifeline. However, the changes outlined in the SoonerCare 2.0 application would make it more difficult for people to gain access to coverage and harder for them to maintain their coverage when they need it most. With unemployment rates at an all-time high and most individual’s health coverage tied to their employment, Oklahoma should instead be working to extend eligibility to the program to help its residents recover physically and economically from this pandemic.

“ACS CAN urges CMS to stand up for public health and act to reduce health disparities by rejecting Okalahoma’s SoonerCare 2.0 waiver application. ACS CAN is further advocating for increased access to the existing program without waiver by encouraging voters to vote “Yes” on State Question 802, on June 30, to increase access to Medicaid coverage for an estimated 200,000 low-income Oklahomans. More than 20,530 people in Oklahoma are expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year and there are already more than 207,260 cancer survivors in the state – many of whom rely on Medicaid or would greatly benefit from receiving their health care through expansion of the program.”

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