Most Okla. Births Paid for by Medicaid

September 28, 2006

A tax-supported health insurance program for low-income Oklahomans paid for more than half the births in the state in 2004, according to the head of the state’s Department of Human Services.

DHS Director Howard Hendrick told the Human Services Commission Tuesday that 55 percent of the 51,157 births in Oklahoma were covered by Medicaid in the most recent year for which statistics are available. About 35 percent of those babies were born to unmarried mothers, Hendrick said.

Medicaid provides free and reduced-price health care to children from low-income families, pregnant women and the elderly.

Hendrick, presenting his semiannual overview of DHS programs, said statistics from the fiscal year that ended June 30 show that fewer Oklahomans are on welfare but that more people are receiving food stamps.

More than 434,300 Oklahomans received food stamps last month, and the program has grown consistently during the past few years. “The troubling news is that we’re 64 percent above where we were five years ago,” Hendrick said,

A total of 641,598 Oklahomans received food stamps for at least one month during the last fiscal year, up 34 percent over the 479,744 recipients in fiscal year 2002.

But fewer people are receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Slightly more than 23,100 Oklahomans received the benefit during fiscal year 2006, the numbers show. That’s down more than 33 percent compared with the 34,521 recipients listed in 2003.

Hendrick credited the decline to DHS employees’ efforts in getting people back to work.

DHS spokesman George Johnson said the statistics show that “Oklahoma is really no different than the rest of the nation.” The numbers show that “there are a lot of people who need health and human services in our society,” he said.

The figures show that more people are working but that they’re still not able to afford groceries or health insurance for their families, Johnson said.

“People get food stamps not because they’re unemployed but because they’re underemployed,” he said.

Other statistics show that DHS child welfare workers investigated 63,116 allegations of child abuse or neglect in fiscal year 2006.

In checking those complaints, they found that 13,827 Oklahoma children were being abused, neglected or both.

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