Oklahoma Physician Groups Statement on Managed Care Contracts

The Oklahoma State Medical Association, Oklahoma Osteopathic Association and American Academy of Pediatrics—Oklahoma Chapter issued the following statement in response to Governor Stitt’s comments regarding Medicaid managed care and the expected awarding of managed care contracts.

“It is unfortunate that, rather than working with stakeholders and legislators on his managed care scheme, this administration has chosen to push through an ill-conceived plan that will have serious implications for our state’s most vulnerable and at-risk populations,” said Stillwater physician Woody Jenkins, MD. “Real leadership involves more than buzzwords and partisan talking points. It requires dialogue and compromise, two things that have been sorely lacking during this process.”

Oklahoma has tried managed care previously and the results were disastrous as many physicians—including over half of the state’s pediatricians—were forced to stop accepting Medicaid patients. Reduced reimbursement and delayed payments made it untenable for small practitioners to remain in the system. The result was an access-to-care crisis for rural Oklahomans and the state eventually scrapped the managed care scheme.

While the physician groups acknowledge that there is room for improvement and that more can be done to better coordinate care for SoonerCare patients, arbitrarily giving the program to for-profit companies is not the way to proceed. They also pointed out that many of the “modernizations” touted by managed care supporters have already been implemented by the Health Care Authority at a much lower cost.

“While we all want state agencies to run more efficiently, we have yet to hear a good explanation of how that goal can be accomplished by removing billions of dollars from the Health Care Authority and sending it to out-of-state companies with 15 percent or more administrative costs while the Health Care Authority runs at less than a 5 percent administrative overhead,” said Dwight Sublett, MD, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Oklahoma Chapter.

His concern was echoed by Oklahoma Osteopathic Association President Richard Schafer, DO, who said “As a rural physician, I believe the decision to move to managed care will be severely detrimental for patient care in Oklahoma. Personally, I am terrified of what this will mean for my patients that I see every day in rural Oklahoma. I urge the Governor and our legislators to please listen to Oklahoma healthcare providers that are taking care of our most fragile citizens.”

The physician groups vowed to continue their fight against managed care as the Legislature prepares to convene next week.

“While we have great concerns about the process up to this point,” said George Monks, MD, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, “the fact remains that many legislators have already expressed their disapproval and unless and until the Legislature chooses to fund the required appropriations, nothing is a done deal.”