Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

November 29, 2013

Doctor: ER care not always available, or cheap

TAHLEQUAH — Now that the Affordable Care Act is in its first phase of implementation, problems with the enrollment process have some folks concerned about the law’s effectiveness in providing care to the poor.

The Oklahoma Legislature, at Gov. Mary Fallin’s insistence, refused to expand its Medicare program to include 9,000 slated to fall into an insurance “crater” beginning in 2014.

In an earlier Daily Press report, Rep. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah, said the Oklahoma Legislature has no plan in place to deal with the issue of the many Oklahomans who will lose their insurance at the end of the year.

“Current Republican leadership refused to take up any measure to help all of the Oklahomans who will lose their insurance coverage,” said Brown. “In January 2014, the federal government will stop participating financially in the Insure Oklahoma program because it does not comply with certain regulations in the federal law, the Affordable Care Act.”

Many uninsured and underinsured seek care the only place they can: the local emergency room. Dr. James Lewis, a local physician, is concerned that ER care is not the place to get the continuity of care many people seek.

After reading a report in a metro newspaper about Congressman Markwayne Mullin’s take on health care, Lewis wrote to Mullin, explaining the fallacies in the congressman’s statement in the article, which read: “There are a lot of programs out there that if people need medical help they can get it. There are a lot of hospitals out there that do the work for free.”

“It is true that an ER will not turn anyone away, but the care provided in an ER is not free and there will be a bill,” Lewis wrote to Mullin. “Moreover, as a physician for more than 40 years, I know that an ER in rural Oklahoma is not necessarily the place to either get quality care or continuity of care.”

Attached to the letter was a New England Journal of Medicine article, “Dead Man Walking,” outlining a specific case of a poor man who died of cancer because he could not afford the preventive care he needed before his cancer became terminal.

Brown believes Lewis is upset about the state’s failure to expand Insure Oklahoma.

“If you read between the lines, Lewis wants to expand Medicaid, and he’s mad because we’re not doing that at the state level,” said Brown. “He’s not being vocal about it, though. He’s using that journal article to show the gaps in the system.”

Brown pointed out that while cases similar to the one mentioned in the journal article happen “every day in Oklahoma,” he also believes Tahlequah City Hospital provides a good deal of charitable care to help offset the costs.

“We have those type cases every day in Oklahoma,” said Brown. “These poor people end up dying because they can’t get health care. I don’t know that the ACA is the answer to end all answers. It has holes in it that are gaping wide. Insurance companies wrote it, and stand to gain, but they are going to have to provide more services.”

Late last year, the Daily Press published a 12-part series on the Affordable Care Act. The final in the series revealed that TCH averages 25,000 emergency room visits per year. According to TCH CEO Brian Woodliff, 40 percent of that population are Medicaid or uninsured patients, and 80 percent of the ER visits are for non-emergency conditions.

“TCH has loaned over $1 million through a provider fee to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority [the state’s Medicaid program] to allow for the health care needs of those living below the federal poverty level,” said Woodliff in an earlier interview.

In May, TCH provided nearly $870,000 in charitable care for the month, and the year-to-date figure in May was $3.44 million. If that continues at the current pace, TCH will have provided about $7 million in charitable care for 2013.


To learn more about long term health care costs visit www.tahlequahdailypress.com/onlineexclusives


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Local News
  • SR-WalkaMile1.jpg Walk a Mile 2014

    Men squeezed into feminine footwear Saturday by the hundreds to walk in solidarity with women on the issue of sexual violence – and their clop-clop-clopping echoed down Muskogee Avenue.
    The fourth annual “Walk a Mile In Her Shoes” brought men to Norris Park, accompanied by their enthusiastic female supporters, to walk – and often wobble – in high heels over a mile-long course to raise funds for Help-In-Crisis.
    “It hurts every year,” said John Christie, a Sequoyah High School student participating in his third Walk a Mile. “I get home, sit down, blisters come up and the calves hurt. But it is worth it. It’s for a good cause.”

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • adams-christopher.jpg Michigan man gets 13 years on plea to rape, sodomy of girl

    A 28-year-old Michigan man will spend about 13 years in an Oklahoma state prison after pleading guilty to four counts of first-degree rape and one count of sodomy involving a 13-year-old girl.
    Christopher Dale Adams, of Lake Orion, Mich., received a 13-year prison sentence for each of the five charges, to be followed by seven years suspended. All sentences will run concurrently.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • logan-amy.jpg Police take down pair on pot distribution charge

    Tahlequah police officers arrested a pair Sunday night for allegedly possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute it.
    Tahlequah Officer Cody Warren said police were asked to investigate when 35-year-old Amy N. Logan, of Tahlequah, allegedly took a family member’s car without permission.
    While Warren was speaking with the owners of the vehicle, Logan arrived along with 26-year-old Theoplilus James Mollie, of Tulsa.

    April 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • land-lisa.jpg Two nailed with meth, pot hidden in bag of chips

    Two people were arrested early Monday morning when Tahlequah police stopped a vehicle near Basin Avenue and found methamphetamine and marijuana hidden in a bag of chips.
    Tahlequah Officer Cory Keele said he noticed a Nissan heading north on Park Hill Road, and the vehicle later stopped in an intersection.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • gawf-johnny.jpg Nylon case doesn’t fool deputy; drug charges to be filed

    A Tahlequah man is jailed at the Cherokee County Detention Center after being arrested on drug possession charges.
    Deputy Michael Cates stopped Johnny Lee Gawf, 25, near Stick Ross Mountain Road and U.S. Highway 62. Gawf did not have his driver’s license and had a no-bond warrant for failure to pay.
    When Gawf was asked to step out of his vehicle, he allegedly reached into a pocket and pulled out a black nylon case, which he claimed to be a pocket knife. Gawf sat the case in the seat of the vehicle.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • ts-CN-citizenship.jpg Dual citizenship still OK for tribes

    It’s been almost a year since the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma was forced to close its casino, leaving about 150 members without jobs.
    Right before the operations was shuttered, Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker offered a plan to absorb UKB employees, scheduling three employment registration meetings in September 2013.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • TPS to hold graduation at Doc Wadley, after all

    A letter obtained by the Tahlequah Daily Press states that graduation exercises for the Tahlequah High School Class of 2014 will be held at Doc Wadley Stadium on May 23.
    Tahlequah Public Schools received an invitation from the city and Northeastern State University to hold the graduation ceremony inside the NSU multipurpose event center, and the district was initially agreeable. But the necessity of limiting invitations to 10 or 15 per student because of seating concerns drew heavy criticism from seniors and parents.

    April 22, 2014

  • Woman allegedly went after relative, then cop

    Deputies say a 22-year-old woman assaulted a family member Saturday, then attacked an officer when he tried to arrest her.
    Deputy Bryan Qualls was sent to investigate the domestic disturbance at Hilltop Circle. Donna Wilder, the alleged victim, told Qualls that the suspect, Kaylynn Sharp, was hiding in the garage, and had struck her in the face several times.

    April 22, 2014

  • jn-city-pool.jpg City of Tahlequah progressing on bond projects

    Just more than a year after the city began collecting a sales tax funds for use on capital improvements, crews continue to work toward finishing several of the projects.
    “We’re going to deliver everything we said we would,” Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols said Friday.
    The $21-million-plus bond issue approved in 2013 includes about $10 million worth of street projects. South Muskogee Avenue will eventually be widened into a five-lane stretch; East Fourth Street’s widening project is underway; and West Fourth will become, at least in part, a three-lane road.
    Projects will also focus on parts of North Grand, East Allen, Bluff, Crafton, and North Cedar.

    April 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • duvall-dustin.jpg Four men charged with burglary

    Four local men are facing burglary and stolen-property charges in Cherokee County District Court.
    Prosecutors have charged the four men with second-degree burglary and knowingly concealing stolen property.

    April 21, 2014 3 Photos


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