Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Letter to my district: HB1381

    Below is a letter I have written to my district concerning HB1381. I have received numerous emails, letters, and calls about this legislation. I wanted to share my heart on this issue and explain where I am coming from. I am grateful for the opportunity to have so many people who are tuned in to the issues in my district and I look forward to continuing dialog with everyone concerned.

My dear friends,

    There has been much discussion lately and many questions have been asked of me about HB1381. I wanted to sit down and lay out my thoughts on this piece of legislation.

    While I did vote for this bill in committee, it was for a very specific reason. I believed that this issue was important enough to discuss on the floor with all the members. Therefore I was glad to pass it out of committee. I did not however, agree with the solution to the issue at hand.

    I am a man of principle and character, and nothing that has and is going on up here at the capitol will ever change that. I was elected by the people of my district because they saw that as well. I believe that my duties as Representative for my district are two-fold:

1. Uphold the Constitution of the United States and of Oklahoma.
2. Represent and serve the voice of the people of my district.

    The Constitution is my top priority to uphold. If there are ever decisions that would require me to violate the constitution or my moral beliefs, I am to be in opposition to that. In any other situation, I am to be the best voice that I can be for my district.

    I believe this issue falls to my belief in what the constitution says and upon my belief on how this Nation and State were set up.

    This bill has been labeled the Supplemental Hospital Offset Payment Program Act, but I believe a more appropriate name would be the “Hospital Provider Tax”. There have been many arguments for this bill stating that this is the only way to save our hospitals when it comes to our Medicaid dollars coming from the federal government. I have been assured numerous times that there would never be any cost transferred to the consumer. I have been assured that if I vote against this bill, that our hospitals will shut down because of the budget crises.

    None of these arguments have fallen on deaf ears. This has been an issue that I have looked at extensively and have talked with many individuals and groups on. I understand the seriousness of this issue and the direct impact that it will have on my district. District 27 has a high percentage of Medicaid recipients and employees who will be directly impacted this bill. Here are some of my thoughts on this bill and where I am coming from…

    I can’t believe that an entity as large as this won’t find a way to somehow pass the “fee’s” on to the consumer. It has happened in the past, and I believe it can and will happen again. I am trying to keep the healthcare profession accountable and protect individuals from overreaching costs.  

    Federal dollars are not “free.” Those dollars are coming out of the paychecks of Oklahoma families. The federal government is currently operating under a $1.5 trillion dollar budget deficit and our national debt recently surpassed $13 trillion for the first time in history. That means every dollar expended by the federal government is deficit spending and must be either borrowed or raised in the form of higher taxes.

    If an insurance provider tax is implemented, consumers would be hit up front in the form of higher insurance premiums and hit again with higher income taxes to pay for the federal “matching” funds for Medicaid.

    Finally, any policy that seeks to expand Medicaid is foolish. Not only does Oklahoma’s Medicaid system consume more than $1 billion in state funds annually, it is highly inefficient and delivers worse health outcomes for its members than those with private insurance, and oftentimes those who have no insurance coverage at all.

    Medicaid reimbursement rates to health care providers tend to be much lower than rates under private insurance, leading many physicians to stop treating Medicaid patients altogether.

    Because many Medicaid patients are unable to find a primary care physician to treat them, they utilize our state’s emergency rooms more than twice as often as the uninsured. Those that are able to find a primary care physician typically find their health benefits under Medicaid are sparse at best.

    The reasons are obvious. There are only three ways for the state to limit spending on Medicaid. It can limit who is eligible to take part in the program, limit benefits for members, or minimize payments to health care providers. All are forms of rationing and all lead to decreased access to care and poor health outcomes for members.

    If Oklahoma lawmakers really want to help Medicaid patients, an insurance provider tax is not the answer. Such a tax only burdens consumers, employers, and employees—and merely masks the real problems underlying poor health outcomes for Medicaid patients.

    I believe any effort to remain deeply entrenched in Medicaid is a losing scenario. You don’t need to tax again the very consumers who have already provided you with the funds you say you need.

    Once again, this is an incredibly difficult decision for me because I see the need and the impact. However as I stated earlier, I will not bend on my values and principles. I hope and pray you can at least respect that. I can say that I am extremely grateful for the responses and contacts that I have received about this issue. I truly value everyone’s input and encourage you to keep your voices strong about the issues you are passionate about.

Thank you and may God richly bless you!

Rep. Josh Cockroft
State Representative
District 27

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