OKLAHOMA CITY – The theme behind a protest at the state capitol Thursday morning was #DontCutMe.
“I worry that I will lose my house, and I’m afraid that I will lose my roommates,” said Jordan Martin.
Citizens are asking lawmakers to protect Medicaid rates with the budget deadline looming.
“I’d like to have hope. Maybe that’s naive, but I’d like to have hope that we as Oklahomans will do the right thing and recognize that citizens do matter,” said Holly Howard.
With the threat of nursing homes closing and special needs programs on the chopping block, some of the most vulnerable Oklahomans could be the most affected.
Howard will be out of her healthcare job at the end of June – something brought on by previous cuts.
“We need to actually allow the individuals that we’re being a voice for share their voice and be seen,” Howard said. “We wanted their faces to be looked at by the legislators.”
One lawmaker we talked with doubts the impact will be as great as some fear it will be.
For every dollar Oklahoma spends on healthcare, the federal government matches $1.50.
So, every cut to the health care budget means Oklahomans get less.
“Every dollar that gets cut basically is $2.50 less we have to spend on needy Oklahomans,” said Doug Cox, M.D., republican with House District 5.
Cox is on the public health appropriations and budget committee.
He sees Wednesday’s failed bill to add a $1.50 tax to cigarettes as a loss to the budget.
“Which is better, a $180 million from the cigarette tax that will garner at least $1.50 for each dollar of federal money or locking up and getting zero,” Cox said.
But, he tells those begging to keep health care funding to stay hopeful.
“I still have some hope that we’ll find some funding here there. It may not be the cigarette tax but some source of funding to where we can at least. We may not be able to prevent all cuts, but minimize them.”
The deadline to approve the budget is May 27.