GUEST EDITORIAL: Oklahomans need rural health systems, not insurance-managed care

James Berry

Our doctors, nurses and other medical providers are tasked with caring for Oklahomans in need. Friends and neighbors are often among the patients they serve, especially in small communities.

As a hospital administrator in Tahlequah, I have seen firsthand the way our staff members improve quality of life for those who need it most, including patients who have recently gained access to care with the recent expansion of Medicaid. When voters approved the measure, they did not approve the interference of out-of-state insurance companies for the management of that care.

Many of the patients we see in Tahlequah cannot afford to travel to other communities for their care, and transportation can be the variable that forces a patient to forgo treatment. Taking unpaid time off work, having to get a ride, or simply being too far away from a facility with the needed equipment and expertise can become a life-or-death matter.

Oklahomans deserve preventive care and prompt attention. Our tax dollars have already provided a mechanism to help services stay local. Keeping hospital and clinic doors open in rural Oklahoma can only happen with adequate funding. Medicaid expansion has brought jobs to communities across our state.

Handing program administration over to private companies like Humana and Centene will mean inefficient use of funding, which jeopardizes employment and could result in longer wait times, less local availability and ultimately, undercut quality of care. We are better prepared to meet Oklahomans’ needs by keeping care in communities and limiting costly bureaucracies that hurt more than they help. Keep corporations out of Oklahomans’ health care.

Doctors and other medical professionals oppose insurance managed care.

Jim Berry is the Hospital Administrator of Northeastern Health System.

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