Bloomberg, February 21, 2011

A panel of lawmakers on Thursday approved a fee on hospital revenue designed to shore up Oklahoma's cash-strapped Medicaid program and a plan to consolidate several state agencies as they try to fill a $600 million hole in the state budget.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Public Health voted 10-0 on Thursday for the hospital provider fee, a bill written by Republican state Rep. Doug Cox, an emergency room physician from Grove. The bill, endorsed by the Oklahoma Hospital Association, would impose a 2 percent fee on a hospital's net revenue, which is expected to generate about $105 million. That money would then be used to draw about $220 million federal matching funds.

"Without doing something, there's going to be more Medicaid cutbacks, which means more hospitals operating in the red," Cox said. "You can only operate in the red for so long before you have to close."

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