Understanding the roles of various entities within state government can be confusing. But for many Oklahomans who find themselves in need, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority can be a lifesaver. And even if you don’t need them right now, understanding the help they provide could be important in the future.
“Overall, the vision at the healthcare authority … is for all Oklahomans to be healthy and have access to quality healthcare, regardless of the ability to pay,” says Kevin Corbett, OHCA CEO and Secretary of Health and Mental Health.
OHCA is the state Medicaid agency, says Corbett, and it operates SoonerCare, which facilitates healthcare services for those that are not able to afford it otherwise. SoonerCare is a rich set of benefits that provides for anything from general wellness care to hospitalization to surgeries, mental health services, substance abuse assistance and more.
The OHCA serves about one third of the state’s population, with approximately 1.3 million people a part of SoonerCare. The authority also works with more than 70,000 partners and providers across the state to serve members and deliver healthcare services.
Eligibility is mostly income based, and the service often meets a temporary need, like after a job loss, for example. According to Corbett, an eligibility example could be a family of four that makes less than $40,000 per year, but anyone can check their eligibility status quickly at mysoonercare.org.
“[The SoonerCare] program is there to support and be a safety net for those that find themselves in a situation where they need access to healthcare, but they are not capable, on their own, to be able to support that,” says Corbett.
The OHCA, which was formed in 1993, saw big changes – and an increase of about 300,000 members – in the last few years after the state adopted Medicaid expansion. They now serve Oklahomans from birth to end of life with benefits across the entire spectrum, says Corbett.
And there are big things ahead for this state agency.
When it comes to health in the state, the OHCA and secretary Corbett recognize that there is work to be done. The team has stayed steadfast in its bold vision for all Oklahomans to be healthy, and have taken a hard look at how to achieve those outcomes.
“We are in, what I call, a health transformation phase. We have made the commitment that we want to honor that vision, and therefore we are changing the healthcare delivery system that the Medicaid program supports today,” says Corbett.
The agency will be launching the new SoonerSelect program likely in early 2024, which will be an outcome- and improvement-based delivery system transformation, according to Corbett.
“We are looking to partner with others that will help us coordinate care and help drive outcomes on a very collaborative basis,” he says.
Regardless of the in’s and out’s of the service, the vital message remains the same: “Just understanding that the state has a support for all citizens that are in need of healthcare, regardless of ability to pay,” says Corbett. “Just knowing that it’s there to serve all citizens that are in need, that’s important.”
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