Mike Fogarty, Chief Executive Officer of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, spoke to members of the Frederick Rotary Club this past Monday.
Fogarty was introduced by club member and local pharmacist, Ed McFall.
The guest followed up the introduction by pointing out to the group that McFall, currently the Chairman of the Authority’s Board of Directors, is also the only original member of the board since its founding.
Fogarty said he was in Frederick to present facts not opinion and two of the facts he is proud of are contained in the mission of the Authority:
1. To purchase health care in the most efficient and comprehensive manner;
2. To study and improve health care for Oklahomans regardless of their ability to pay.
“That was our mission then, and it is our mission today,” he said.
Fogarty then focused his talk on Medicaid.
He said Medicaid was enacted in 1965 the same time as Medicare.
Fogarty told the club that many people think they are tied together, however, he said, “The only thing they have in common is they both start with the letter ‘M’”.
“Medicare is a federal insurance benefit,” he explained, “while Medicaid is administered by the state.”
Fogarty added that at the time of the programs inception, the headlines were about the same as they are now…”Socialized Medicine.”
From the time it was enacted, Medicaid was a benefit tied directly to people on financial assistance. “Welfare,” he explained.
“It has been that way until two years ago,” he said. “Now, for the first time, it is really about ‘can you afford it’”.
Fogarty pointed out that Oklahoma was one of the first states to implement Medicaid.
Throughout his talk to the club Fogarty kept talking about the enormous amount of data that the Health Care Authority accumulates.
For example, he said that in 1997 280,000 Oklahoma women and children were enrolled in Medicaid, “last month there were 817,000.”
Because of the way Oklahoma was handling its healthcare, the federal government granted the state a waiver that would allow the state to run a statewide managed healthcare program. And Fogarty said the state has saved over $2 billion by doing so.
“That,” he said, “was the birth of Insure Oklahoma.”
Insure Oklahoma is an insurance plan for employers with less than 90 employees to be able to offer a plan to those employees and also to individuals, he explained.
Fogarty said the economic downturn the state has experienced has resulted in a steady growth of participants.
He said the expansion of Medicaid as outlined in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) would be a definite benefit to Oklahoma.
Not only would it help alleviate the cost hospitals incur when someone who cannot pay for treatment comes to the emergency room, Memorial Hospital administrator Michael Carter said they had to write off $1.2 million last year for such care, Fogarty said it would allow for earlier treatment of patients whose disease will worsen the longer they wait for treatment.
Fogarty also told the club members that despite the opposition in the Governor’s office and the State Legislature that the expansion will cost the state too much money, the expansion would actually increase revenue in the state.
Using a chart showing 100% participation of eligible Oklahomans, Fogarty pointed out that the economic impact of the expansion will provide $522 million in new state tax revenue and $333.2 million in state costs replaced by new federal revenue, a total of $855.2 million in new revenue.
The charts were in a packet called, “It’s Health Care, not Welfare.”
Asked why, then, why are some legislators and the Governor so opposed to the plan, Fogarty said they haven’t studied all the numbers.
As an example he used Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona who was originally adamantly against the expansion. He said after looking at all the numbers, she has changed her position and now approves of the plan.
He urged all the members of the club to study the figures he presented and let their legislators know how they feel.