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managed Medicaid
The sun shines over the Oklahoma Health Care Authority offices in Oklahoma City. (William W. Savage III)

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority has cancelled its request for proposal asking private companies to manage Medicaid coverage for aged, blind and disabled patients.

The agency sent out a press release around 2:20 p.m. today:

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority took action today to cancel the Request for Proposal (RFP) for SoonerHealth+, the fully capitated, statewide model of care coordination that has been in development for Oklahoma Medicaid’s aged, blind and disabled (ABD) population. This decision was made in the best interest of the state due to the uncertainty surrounding both federal and state funding.

House Bill 1566 passed by the Oklahoma Legislature and signed by Gov. Mary Fallin in April 2015 directed the OHCA to initiate an RFP for a care coordination model for the ABD population. This RFP was issued in November 2016.

“In addition to the funds needed to maintain services at current levels, the agency requested approximately $52 million to fund the care coordination model. The additional request was not funded; therefore, the agency is unable to move forward with the RFP,” said OHCA CEO Becky Pasternik-Ikard.

OHCA’s decision comes after tense behind-the-scenes debate over appropriations for the experimental program, which many criticized as unlikely to work based on results in states like Iowa and Florida. Managed Medicaid programs involve private entities attempting to save states money by finding care efficiencies.

Ultimately, the House of Representatives passed a resolution in May urging the agency to pause its awarding of any contract pursuant to the RFP.

“With all that’s going on at the federal level, it sends a message to the agency that the House would like them to hit the pause button,” House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols (R-OKC) told NonDoc after the resolution passed. “Not the rewind button. Not the stop button. The pause button. If they do it and there are issues that arise, that would fall square on the agency and the agency head because they were warned what would happen.”

Oklahoma Hospital Association President Craig Jones released a statement late Wednesday afternoon on the topic.

“We are exceedingly pleased that the Oklahoma Health Care Authority has taken action to cancel the RFP for SoonerCare+, an outsourced managed care program for the aged, blind and disabled (ABD) Medicaid members,” Jones said. “In addition to the lack of funding, there remains too many unanswered questions and unaddressed concerns to proceed with the program.”

(Update: This post was updated at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, June 14, to include Craig Jones’ comments.)

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William W. Savage III holds a journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma. He covered two sessions of the Oklahoma Legislature for eCapitol.net before working in health care for six years. He is a nationally certified Mental Health First Aid instructor.