Former President & CEO, INTEGRIS Health

Consistency or Hypocrisy?

Published in The Journal Record
November 16, 2016

Watching the presidential debates is a striking lesson in how duplicitous and inconsistent our politicians can be. They routinely and consistently change their opinion on major policy positions based on political opportunities at that time. 

Another definition for this phenomenon is hypocrisy. Several years ago I attended the opening of the I-44 Corridor south of downtown Oklahoma City.  State official after state official rose to commend our highway department for securing federal funds that allowed for the construction of this welcome addition to our highway system in Oklahoma County.   It is clear that taking federal money, in this case, was thought to be not only smart but clearly politically correct.

We apparently pursue federal dollars in highway funding with great enthusiasm and alacrity. So, I’m confused as to why taking federal dollars to take care of more poor people through the Medicaid program is considered evil and stupid.  Over the last several years we have turned back money to help set up a state-based exchange through which our citizens of all economic stature could pursue health care coverage and, perhaps more importantly, have consistently turned down Medicaid money from the federal government to expand that program.

I get it when public officials rale against accepting federal dollars but it seems to me that to be steady you would need to be consistent. Why are funds for highways, education, and numerous other services okay but Medicaid is not?

Here’s my theory. It’s called Obamacare.  The fact that the Affordable Care Act called for the expansion of Medicaid makes it a pariah to many conservatives who are deathly afraid of getting outflanked on their political right by any cooperation with the federal government.  So on one hand we pursued certain federal matching funds with enthusiasm but because Medicaid expansion is linked to the dreaded “Obamacare” it somehow is tainted money and unacceptable.  Can you say hypocrisy?

Our state Medicaid program is in great trouble because of declining revenue, and provider fees to doctors and hospitals have been slashed aggressively. This has led many physicians to simply refuse to take Medicaid patients.  We therefore have a growing gap between where our Medicaid program stops and federal subsidies start.

Is it too much to ask for our state officials to be consistent in their pursuit of federal dollars?

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