Senate Appropriations Chairman Kelly Haney said legislators and other state leaders must put a greater focus on the need to increase access to quality health care throughout Oklahoma. On Friday he addressed a meeting of healthcare providers, physicians, public officials and others during the 2001 Health Care Symposium held in Oklahoma City on September 27th and 28th at the Hilton Inn Northwest.
"These are issues that have a direct impact on just about every man, woman and child in our state," explained Haney, D-Seminole. "We're talking about everything from the numbers of people without insurance to trying to find ways to attract and keep good doctors and quality facilities in our rural areas."
Haney noted the legislature has passed several critical bills in the last few years to address a complex variety of health care issues.
"But the bottom line is, we've got to have doctors, nurses and hospitals who can provide comprehensive healthcare in both our big cities and our rural areas. We have done an excellent job of increasing the numbers of physicians statewide in the last 40 years, but it is critical to retain them, and to make sure we have new doctors being trained who are willing to practice in rural areas in particular," commented Haney.
" That was one of the main reasons we moved to protect 183 residency positions at the financially troubled Hillcrest Hospital in Tulsa," explained Haney. Lawmakers secured $19.6 million in Fiscal 2001 supplemental funding and an additional $32 million in 2002 funding for hospital direct medical education, allowing those residencies to continue.
"At the same time, we were able to utilize some of the funds from the historic tobacco settlement to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates for physicians we depend on to care for thousands of Oklahomans. Without more equitable reimbursement, there is a very real concern that many doctors will leave for more lucrative practices in other areas. Some will simply refuse to see those patients," said Senator Haney.
"These are complicated issues, but this symposium was an excellent opportunity for us to explain what we have accomplished so far and get feedback about ways we can continue to improve our state's health care. Quality health care in Oklahoma is something I intend to bring to the legislative forefront in the months to come."