Oklahoma considers its options in privatizing Medicaid for the aged, blind, disabled

September 22, 2015

State lawmakers asked the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to explore cost-saving options that could lead to partially privatizing the state's $2.4-billion Medicaid program, with OHCA's chief strategy officer, Buffy Heater, evaluating options to shift part of the Medicaid population into a "coordinated care" program using private-sector contractors. A previous effort to privatize Medicaid led to rising costs and companies dropping out of the program, prompting the state to pull the plug. Proponents of the new effort predict it might turn out better this time around due to improvements in managed-care practices, but advocates of the aged, blind and disabled said the managed-care program could disrupt care for beneficiaries by forcing them to switch doctors and adapt to new care regimens. In FY2014, the aged, blind and disabled accounted for 16% of Medicaid membership but 47% spending. OHCA is evaluating "request for information" responses from 23 independent managed-care companies, administrative service organizations and regional healthcare groups, and plans to draft a more specific "request for proposal" later this year. The state legislature has passed H.B. 1566, which directed the authority to request proposals from independent vendors who could coordinate healthcare for aged, blind or disabled people currently enrolled in SoonerCare, the state's version of Medicaid. The bill has support from BCBS of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Hospital Association and the Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers.