ibusinesslines.com June 28, 2017

Health providers push for tax hike

20 April 2017, 08:36 | Melissa Porter

In 2016, lawmakers were able spare to health care providers from cuts without hiking the cigarette tax, but that came at the expense of college and university budgets and mental health services, Jones said.

Those statistics, presented today by Eide Bailly Director of Medical Professionals Rick Wagner, demonstrate the desperate need for Oklahoma's Legislature to increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes $1.50 to fund health care.

House Bill 1841, which passed House Appropriations and Budget Committee in February, would also support various healthcare funds from September 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018. "Four out of five hospitals across the state would no longer deliver babies". "Every week, we decide how we can make payroll this week".

They say not increasing the tax by $1.50 per pack could have dire consequences.

He said his company's analysis found the state could see more than 10 rural hospitals close in the next 18 months.

"We believe that this affiliation will allow us to provide our patients with a continuum of care previously not available in Lawton", said Dan Jones, Southwestern's interim chief executive.

The affiliation will increase access Southwestern patients have to specialty services St. Anthony offers through its parent organization, SSM Health Care Oklahoma. A lack of prenatal care in rural areas would mean more high-risk pregnancies, more babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and more acute cases at OU Medical.

For the second year, hospital officials were pitching a $1.50 per cigarette pack tax hike that they say will drum up hundreds of millions in new revenue that lawmakers could use to help save struggling rural hospitals, doctors and nursing homes.

About 70 percent of all residents in skilled-nursing facilities rely on Medicaid to pay for their care, he said. "Seventy-four percent of Oklahomans agree with us".

He said the state needs more money for health care; even without a reimbursement rate cut, 30 percent of nursing homes face closure.

In February, the Oklahoma Board of Equalization declared a revenue failure for the current fiscal year, which led to appropriations cuts to state agencies. "This isn't going to fix health care, but it is absolutely the right thing to do for health care in Oklahoma".

Chuck Spicer, CEO of the OU Medical System, said those closures would jeopardize trauma care for the entire state.

The speakers urged Oklahomans to sign up at makeokbetter.org and to call legislators.

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