The Obamacare provision that expands Medicaid coverage to an estimated 17 million low-income people is popular with the majority of Americans, but Republican governors in states across the country have been resisting accepting the expansion. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) has said she will not decide on whether or not accept the Medicaid expansion until after the presidential election.
As the Tulsa World reports, opting into the expansion of the Medicaid program would be a good move for Oklahoma because it would free up state money for other necessary programs, such as mental health services:
Services currently funded completely with state money would shift to Medicaid funding – allowing the state to either shift its tax money to other uses or magnify its ability to provide those services.
“I think it’s darn sure one of the selling points for accepting” the Medicaid expansion, said Michael Brose, executive director of the Mental Health Association in Tulsa.
Carter Kimble, spokesman for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, said first-draft estimates of potential state savings with the Medicaid expansion show that the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services could save $34 million, the Corrections Department $11.2 million, and the state Health Department $2.4 million.
Oklahoma and Arkansas are not alone. The Urban Institute estimates that 21 to 45 states would save money by taking the Medicaid expansion. In fact, many of the Southern states whose Republicans governors have been most resistant to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion would actually benefit most from expanding the program.