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Oklahoma high court strikes down governor’s Medicaid plan

Governor Kevin Stitt
Governor Kevin Stitt
Updated: Jun. 2, 2021 at 1:41 PM CDT
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Gov. Kevin Stitt’s plan to privatize much of the state’s Medicaid program is unconstitutional.

In a 6-3 ruling Tuesday, the court determined the Oklahoma Health Care Authority did not have the legislative approval to move forward with the plan, dubbed SoonerSelect.

“We find no express grant of legislative authority to create the SoonerSelect program nor do we find the extant statutes implicitly authorize its creation,” the ruling states.

The court also determined a constitutional amendment approved by voters last year to expand Medicaid to more low-income people also did not authorize a new managed-care program like SoonerSelect.

The court also found that the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the state’s Medicaid agency, should have made the rules governing competitive bidding widely known prior to implementing a request for proposal and the awarding of contracts.

The Republican governor has pushed the plan to outsource management of the state’s Medicaid system to for-profit insurance companies, maintaining that the approach will maximize health care quality while cutting costs.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling will unnecessarily delay Oklahoma’s efforts to improve health outcomes through managed care, which the Legislature confirmed is the right path forward for our state through Senate Bill 131,” Stitt said, referring to a bill approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature that placed some restrictions on the managed care plan. Stitt let that bill become law without his signature.

Stitt said he planned to work with the Health Care Authority to determine how to proceed.

A group of medical organizations filed suit in February seeking to stop the plan, including the Oklahoma State Medical Association, Oklahoma Dental Association, Oklahoma Osteopathic Association, Oklahoma Society of Anesthesiologists and the Oklahoma Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Oklahoma physicians were virtually united in opposition to this plan,” Allison LeBoeuf, executive director of the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association said in a statement. “Oklahomans are best served when medical decisions are made between doctor and patient, and without interference from insurance bureaucrats.”

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.