In the poverty-wracked southeastern corner of the state, where 96 percent of babies in the McCurtain Memorial Hospital are born to Medicaid patients, most health care would end, said hospital CEO Jahni Tapley.

“A 25 percent cut to Medicaid would not put my hospital in jeopardy, because we are already in jeopardy,” Tapley said. “A 25 percent cut would shutter our doors for good, leaving 33,000 people without access to health care.”

Nursing homes have been warning residents that they may be closing. Asked where she would go if the Beadles Nursing Home in the small town of Alva closes, Jeanie Yohn, 89, said: “I just can’t imagine. I have three daughters, but they don’t live here.”

Under the proposal, which would be funded in part with a $1.50-per-pack tax on cigarettes, Oklahoma would shift 175,000 people from its Medicaid rolls onto the federal health exchange created by the Affordable Care Act. That would make room for adding to Medicaid roughly the same number of working poor who are currently uninsured. Participants would pay nominal premiums and co-pays.

The move, by increasing the number of uninsured people covered, would allow the state to tap into the extra money offered under the federal law. Beginning in 2017, the federal government would cover 95 percent of the state’s Medicaid costs, decreasing to 90 percent of the share in 2020.

Fallin, a former congresswoman who voted against Obama’s health plan when it came before the House, argues that the plan doesn’t amount to expanding Medicaid because the program’s rolls don’t grow. Rather, she said, it “transitions 175,000 Medicaid enrollees to the private insurance market.”

No matter what state leaders call it, conservative groups aren’t happy about the idea of more government health spending.

“They can call it Medicaid rebalancing, but there’s only one federal program that offers a 9-to-1 federal match, and that’s Obamacare,” said Johnathan Small, president of Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs, a free-market think-tank that opposes higher taxes. The opponents have called for covering health costs by cutting spending for less essential programs.

Americans for Prosperity, another conservative think-tank backed by the billionaire philanthropist Koch brothers, David and Charles, also has launched a campaign against the proposal and is hosting a “NobamaCare” event at the state Capitol to voice their opposition.

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In Surprising Turnabout, Oklahoma Eyes Medicaid Expansion
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