Ritze says OHCA ignores facts about new health care law

CapitolBeatOK Staff Report

Published: 12-Apr-2010

Although an Oklahoma Health Care Authority official recently claimed the federal overhaul of health care would save the state money, that analysis is based on faulty assumptions, said state Rep. Mike Ritze, one of two doctors serving in the Oklahoma Legislature.

Mike Fogarty, chief executive at the authority, said 250,000 more Oklahomans would get coverage under the new law by 2014, and that the current $1 billion cost for those who do not pay for health care will be cut in half. The authority runs SoonerCare, Oklahoma’s Medicaid program.

Concerning the estimated cost benefits, Wes Glinsmann of the state Medical Association said (according to Sonya Colberg of The Oklahoman), “Government estimates tend to be a little rosier than what the final numbers turn out to be. A note of cautions would be wise.”

“The OHCA’s statement cannot be taken seriously based on the assumptions they make to support their claim,” said Ritze, a Broken Arrow Republican. “First, federal government cost projections are never accurate and always understate actual costs – just look at the history of Medicaid and Medicare.”

The OHCA’s statements about the federal plan noted that the federal government would cover most of the cost for two years. Ritze said that does not mean the plan is “free.”

In a statement sent today (Monday, April 12) to CapitolBeatOK, Dr. Ritze said, “The OHCA is falsely assuming that no one will bear the costs because the federal government is covering the initial tab for Medicaid expansion. The increased federal costs are paid by the same Oklahoma taxpayers who fund state programs. Now that the federal health care plan has passed, one of the president’s top economic advisors is calling for a new ‘value-added tax’ that will increase the cost of most goods and services for all Oklahomans,” Ritze said.

He continued, “In addition, individuals will face a 2.5 percent tax if they fail to purchase expensive government-mandated insurance under the new federal health care law; businesses will see a $2,000 per employee tax if they fail to purchase insurance; excise taxes will be imposed on health insurance plans and medical devices; and there are new compliance costs to individuals and businesses to comport with the new law.”

Ritze noted the Medicaid program is already criticized for failing to provide top-notch health care and predicted that problem will not get better if 200,000 more people are added to the welfare program.

“I have to wonder about a ‘health reform plan’ whose goal is to put the uninsured in Medicaid when many doctors already decline to see new Medicaid patients, and where quality is, overall, pretty poor,” Ritze said.

Fogarty said in last week’s appearance before a legislative panel that his  estimated cost of $63 million a year for the new federal law, through 2020,  is relatively little. Managers at the authority said limits on payments to physicians would also help lower costs.

Despite the analysis presented last week at a meeting of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, a strikingly different view of the health care bill’s impact is found in Jon Ward’s April 2 analysis for “The Daily Caller.”

One of the massive (2,704 pages) law’s provisions creates a new definition of “medical assistance,” i.e. the term which details what states are required to provide for Medicaid recipients. Ward’s analysis notes, “States have in the past been required to provide payment for services to physicians. Now, under the new definition, states will be liable for ensuring provision of ‘the care and services themselves.’”

A knowledgeable official in Louisiana is raising alarm bells about the new wording, according to Ward. In a memo to state officials, Alan Levine, Louisiana’s secretary of health and hospitals, said, “With the expanded definition, it leaves every state vulnerable to a new wave of lawsuits any time someone cannot access a service, even if that service is limited by virtue of the rates we pay.” Levine said, “DHH cannot estimate the cost of this, but it is not even worth estimating. It will be substantial.”

In his statement on Monday, Dr. Ritze contended that in Massachusetts, which implemented a similar “universal” government health care plan at the state level several years ago, emergency room visits actually increased after the reform was implemented, even though the number of uninsured declined.

“The track record for government health care clearly undermines the claims of the OHCA,” Ritze concluded.

Note: Editor Patrick B. McGuigan contributed to this report.