The article published in The Duncan Banner on April 26, “Working on a plan,” is intentionally misleading and not supportive of the position of our local house representative, Marcus McEntire. Representative McEntire should be applauded for his courage to lead our state’s initiative for healthcare reform.
Unlike what the article says, Representative McEntire has been working with other Republicans to develop an “Oklahoma Plan” which is similar to a plan that is in place in Arkansas.
As the president and CEO of Duncan Regional Hospital, I support the efforts of Representative McEntire, as well as the efforts of those working to bring Medicaid expansion to our state. As important as these efforts are, neither plan is guaranteed to have the necessary votes in the legislature, or with the people, to bring needed funding to our state’s hospitals and doctors.
Many voters don’t realize, with the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), that if a state did not expand Medicaid, their local hospitals and doctors received funding cuts. If we want competition to work better within our system, we need to make certain that no citizens are uninsured. Both sides of the political aisle have reason to support efforts for Medicaid expansion, or in this case, the Oklahoma Plan.
Why are these efforts important? Since 2016, hospitals in Antlers, Atoka, Drumright, Fairfax, Prague, Seiling, Stigler and Vinita have declared bankruptcy. Also, since 2016, hospitals in Eufaula, Frederick, Pauls Valley, Sayre and Wilburton have closed permanently. Bankruptcy and closures of 13 hospitals within three years are not failure of leadership in these local communities. They do represent a failure of leadership in state government to ensure that Oklahoma takes advantage of incentives created by the federal government, including the nine-to-one federal match available to Oklahoma for Medicaid expansion or the Oklahoma Plan advocated for by Representative McEntire.
Citizens in Stephens and Jefferson County should ask themselves if a stronger local healthcare system is important to them and their family. Either plan will mean millions of new dollars for Stephens and Jefferson County. Oh, by the way, we already pay the taxes that are required to receive these federal funds through the Oklahoma Plan or Medicaid expansion. Approval means no new taxes! What Representative McEntire is working on is nothing short of doing what he was elected to do: represent the best interests of his district.
I am thankful for Representative McEntire’s hard work representing us.
Jay Johnson, Duncan