Oklahoma state Rep. Earl Sears, R-Bartlesville, is pictured during a committee meeting in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, May 13, 2015.
Sue Ogrocki / Associated Press

It’s now the final month of the legislative session, and lawmakers have less than four weeks to pull off a budget deal to close a $1.3 billion shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Will they get it done?

“Yes,” state Sen. Mike Schulz, R-Altus, told reporters Thursday. “I want to go home.”

Oklahoma's constitution requires the legislature to adjourn on the final Friday in May. Lawmakers have discussed wrapping up their work a week early, which they’ve done every year since 2012.

Dr. Billy D. Schumpert, left, checks on Debbie Brewer at Eastern Oklahoma Medical Center in Poteau on Tuesday while Kody Smith, infection preventionist and registered nurse, looks on.
Amanda Corbin / Poteau Daily News

Proposed cuts to Oklahoma’s Medicaid reimbursement rate that could be as high as 25 percent are threatening the services offered by rural hospitals across the state.

Mike Carter, CEO of the Eastern Oklahoma Medical Center in Poteau, during an April 13, 2016 press conference at the state Capitol.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Hospital and nursing home administrators urged the Oklahoma legislature Wednesday to increase the tobacco tax by $1.50 per pack of cigarettes as way to stave off a proposed 25 percent cut to the Medicaid reimbursement rate.

They also announced support for a plan to expand the state’s Insure Oklahoma program and accept federal healthcare dollars.

Eastern Oklahoma Medical Center CEO Mike Carter says a cut to the Medicaid reimbursement rate would devastate his hospital.

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Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, says there's growing support in his Republican caucus for a plan to rebalance Oklahoma's Medicaid population to trigger an infusion of federal funding.

“And again, it comes down to how do we pay for our share of state dollars?” Bingman said.

He told reporters Thursday the potential for 25 percent cuts to Medicaid providers could significantly affect Oklahoma's health care system.

Okeene Municipal Hospital CEO Shelly Duncan on March 30, 2016.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU


Shelly Dunham walks through the halls of Okeene Municipal Hospital in northwest Oklahoma on a slow Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s not a busy place. We don’t have a lot of patients, but we’re the safety net for patients,” Dunham said.

Dunham is the CEO of this 17-bed hospital that offers the basics in care - like an emergency room, a laboratory, therapy, X-rays, and  CT scans.

“We have to be open to take care of people who come in with emergencies and get them to higher levels of care when they need that,” Dunham said.

Oklahoma State Capitol
ensign_beedrill / Flickr Creative Commons

A bill that would have taken over 100,000 Oklahomans off Medicaid failed to pass through a Senate committee on Monday. House Bill 2665, written by state Rep. Doug Cox, R-Grove, and state Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, aimed to remove “able-bodied adults” from Medicaid but would have left the aged, blind, disabled and children with coverage.

Nico Gomez, CEO of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.
Warren Vieth / Oklahoma Watch

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority announced Tuesday its plans to cut reimbursement rates for Medicaid providers by 25 percent as a result of the state’s budget shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year.

The cuts, which must first go through a series of public hearings over the next 60 days, would affect all provider types, including hospitals, physicians, pharmacy, durable medical equipment suppliers and nursing facilities, according to a news release from the Health Care Authority.

Buffy Heater, chief strategy officer of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, is evaluating options for shifting part of Oklahoma’s Medicaid population into a “coordinated care” program using private-sector contractors.
Warren Vieth / Oklahoma Watch

At the insistence of state lawmakers, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority is exploring cost-saving options that could lead to partial privatization of the state’s $2.4 billion Medicaid program for aged, blind and disabled people.

The state tried that once before, and it didn’t work out. Costs escalated, companies dropped out, and the state pulled the plug. Supporters of the new effort predicted it might turn out better because of improvements in managed-care practices.

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The operator of an Oklahoma mental health care facility has been sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly billing fraudulent claims to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt's office announced the sentence Wednesday for John Michael Doneti, a licensed professional counselor who ran Central Oklahoma Behavioral Health Services, LLC. Doneti was also sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay $194,000 in restitution.

Insure Oklahoma logo

State and tribal leaders in Oklahoma are exploring opportunities for a federal waiver that could mean health insurance for more than 40,000 low-income uninsured tribal members in the state.

While state leaders oppose a Medicaid expansion offered under the federal health care law, this latest idea to expand Insure Oklahoma would involve no state funds.