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Agricultural News

Oklahoma Farm Bureau is Beating the Drum for HB 1381

Thu, 21 Apr 2011 11:30:10 CDT

Oklahoma Farm Bureau is Beating the Drum for HB 1381 Mike Spradling, President of the Oklahoma Farm Bureau offers an op-ed article regarding a piece of legislation that the Farm Bureau is hoping to see passed in the latter days of the 2011 legislative session.

Here is Spradling's editorial piece:

Help Our Rural Families and Our Rural Hospitals; Support HB 1381

According to the latest Medicare cost reports, 57 percent of Oklahoma’s 81 rural hospitals operated at a loss. More striking is that one out of five of them had losses in excess of 10 percent. This is simply not a sustainable model.

But making matters worse, many rural families and rural businesses are unwittingly paying a hidden tax to keep these hospitals open. When patients are not paying for the cost of their care, hospitals are forced to try to pass along that cost to those of us who pay either directly or through insurance premiums. Known as cost shifting, this is one reason we have seen such inflationary pressures in health care. And one of the worst culprits of not paying is Medicaid. According to the numbers, Oklahoma’s hospitals are only reimbursed at 67 percent of the allowable rate when treating Medicaid patients and this amount is often below the cost of the service being provided.

But it does not have to be this way. Medicaid is designed to be a state and federal partnership. The federal government has set aside matching dollars to help hospitals recover their costs of providing Medicaid services – however, Oklahoma does not take full advantage of this match. In 34 other states, hospitals willingly pay a fee that is in-turn used to get the federal matching dollars. But current law in Oklahoma does not allow this. As such, the federal tax dollars of Oklahomans are being used to subsidize and help hospitals in other states – not our own. Our tax dollars are being used to help rural communities in other states remain viable – but not here in our own communities.

HB 1381 would levy a fee on hospitals that could not be passed on to consumers. Supported by all of the hospitals that would pay the fee, this bill allows Oklahoma to take more advantage of the available federal dollars. Remember, if Oklahoma doesn’t take advantage of this program, these dollars will go to other states. They aren’t coming back to taxpayers.

HB 1381 will help more than our hospitals. It will help lessen the pressure for cost shifting, which will help keep insurance rates and medical costs from going up. Perhaps more important, HB 1381 will help make certain rural Oklahoma has access to health care by helping to keep our rural hospitals open. Without passage of HB 1381, there is little doubt that some hospitals throughout our state will close their doors. No organization can sustain annual losses in excess of 10 percent and remain open for very long.

The Oklahoma Farm Bureau, in fulfilling our mission to help Oklahoma’s farm and ranch families, has endorsed passage of HB 1381. We applaud our Legislature and our state leaders for the work they have done to help rural Oklahoma thrive, and we ask them to again help by voting yes on HB 1381.



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