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In a recent poll conducted by SoonerPoll, 53 percent of likely Oklahoma voters indicated that they would support a proposal to levy a $50 fee on Medicaid enrollees that smoke. The poll also revealed that 38.3 percent of likely Oklahoma voters polled would oppose such a proposal, while 8.7 percent had no opinion.

Jason Sutton, Health Care Policy Analyst at the Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs, said these results show that Oklahomans recognize that unhealthy behaviors drive health costs to unsustainable limits.

“What Oklahomans are saying is that citizens who lead an unhealthy lifestyle in which they engage in unhealthy behavior should be held accountable when it comes to receiving tax payer subsidized health insurance,” Sutton said. “Oklahomans want Medicaid enrollees to have some skin in the game.”

OCPA’s Jason Sutton on Medicaid Fees

SoonerPoll’s Wesley Burt asks Jason Sutton, Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs Health Care Policy Analyst, about his take on the latest SoonerPoll results concerning a proposal to levy a fee on smokers who recieve Medicaid.


The question comes at a time when many states face Medicaid budget cuts while many of their citizens continue to enroll in the program. In April, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer put forward a similar proposal that also extends a $50 fee to both enrollees who smoke and overweight enrollees.

Sutton said that Oklahoma, like many other states, faces a situation similar to Arizona’s as the state’s Medicaid enrollment continues to increase, reaching unsustainable levels.

“The real benefit of extending a fee on unhealthy behavior has less to do with the monetary value of the fee collected and more to do with creating incentives for change.” Sutton said. “If you incentivize people by requiring some cost sharing on unhealthy behaviors then you will see less people engaging in these unhealthy behaviors, which, in the long run, will lower costs for the entire system.”

Crosstab analysis reveals bi partisan support as the percentage of Republicans and Democrats who would support such a proposal is within margin of error. When results are examined by party label it is revealed that conservatives are 10 points more likely to support the proposal than liberals with 54 and 44 percent respectively.

Crosstab analysis indicates no corresponding pattern between income and support. The results do reveal that 55.5 percent of those who make less than $35,000 a year, the most likely to be Medicaid users, would support the proposal.

SoonerPoll.com, Oklahoma’s public opinion pollster, was commissioned for this poll by the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. SoonerPoll.com conducted the scientific study using live interviewers by telephone of 509 likely voters from May 2 – 12. The study has a margin of error of ± 4.34 percent.

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Oklahoma City – 75-year-old Frank Archey gets good advice on his golf game from his grandsons. But when it comes to his healthcare, he turns to physicians with the Oklahoma City Clinic.

“My wife and I are fortunate,” explains Archey. “We have an excellent doctor to take care of us.”

Other senior citizens – those 65 and older and eligible for Medicare – may not be so lucky. With low reimbursement rates for doctors, fewer and fewer physicians are accepting new Medicare patients.

“We checked the state licensure board database. I was shocked to see that 45 percent of licensed physicians in Oklahoma are not participating in Medicare,” says Denise Suttles, CEO of Oklahoma City Clinic.

She points out that the situation will become critical in the next few years as baby boomers age.

“It’s estimated that the number of Medicare eligible people will double in Oklahoma County alone by 2013,” says Suttles. “We’ll need to have more doctors available to take care of our aging population.”

Soonerpoll.com – an Oklahoma City-based opinion polling organization – conducted a survey of metro physicians this summer at a time when Congress was taking up the issue of lowering physician Medicare reimbursement rates by more than 10 percent.

The poll found that approximately one out of every four offices would either stop treating their current Medicare patients or reduce the number as a result of lower reimbursements.

The survey also showed that one out of every seven Medicare practices would keep treating current Medicare patients – but would not accept new Medicare patients if rates were slashed.

Congress has given the issue a reprieve for 18 months. But healthcare professionals warn the issue must be addressed every year to ensure that Medicare cuts to physician pay do not occur.

“We’re dedicated to the product of Medicare,” says Suttles. “We have planned well and made investments in resources and a network of physicians to continue serving the Medicare population.”

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