Health Care

The Tribes Are Dramatically Improving Oklahoma’s Health Care Future

Of all of the factors that determine a state’s success, few are more foundational than health care. States with a wide range of quality providers—and the means to pay for them—see enormous benefits. But achieving excellence is as challenging as it is rewarding.

In Oklahoma, we are fortunate to have an advantage that most every other state in America would do anything to enjoy themselves: tribal nations that invest enormous money and energy into providing the best possible health care to Oklahomans.

If you're going to have a thriving economy, whether it's a tribal economy or it's a state economy or it's a combination, you have to have healthy citizens. And their investment in rural health care in Oklahoma, in my opinion, it's almost unmeasurable.

Dr. Larry Rice
President
Rogers State University
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Every Oklahoman Benefits From Tribal Health Care

In most cases, federal and state governments share the costs of Medicaid. But in Oklahoma, when a tribal health facility administers treatment to a tribal citizen, the cost of care for the state is effectively zero.

In fiscal year 2018, Medicaid expenditures at Oklahoma tribal health care facilities numbered $213 million. This resulted in a direct savings to taxpayers of $88 million: money that was instead available for critical needs like education, infrastructure and other priorities. 

[Tribes] are passionate about taking care of their tribal members, but they’re very passionate about taking care of all Oklahomans. We see that with health care philanthropy—[they’re] oftentimes wanting to be the first donors to a major health care initiative, wanting to help us advance our medicine, wanting to provide better access to care to all Oklahomans.

Anne Clouse
Vice President & Executive Director
INTEGRIS Foundation
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The Economic Impact of Tribal Nations in Oklahoma Fiscal Year 2017

Oklahoma Tribal Nations are major drivers of Oklahoma’s overall economy, ranking as a Top 10 industry.

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Additionally, tribal nations directly employed 51,674 people in 2017, along with 44,503 people whose jobs are supported in Oklahoma because of tribal operations. Whether they are tribal citizens or not—and some studies have estimated non-tribal employees of Oklahoma tribes comprise roughly 60% of the workforce—the vast majority of those workers receive health care benefits from their tribal employers.

Solving The Rural Health Care Crisis

All across America, states are dealing with the rapid urbanization of our country. As growth continues to center in urban areas, many rural communities struggle to maintain necessary services. Since 2010, more than 110 hospitals have closed nationwide, and according to the National Rural Health Association, nearly 700 more are at risk.

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Stay up to date on the stories about all the unique ways state-tribal partnerships work for the benefit of everyone in the state.

Losing critical health care services has a severe impact on rural communities and families, who are often forced to move to urban areas in order to receive necessary care, further forcing their hometowns into downward spirals.

Oklahoma is not immune to this problem. But Native American tribes, who are predominantly based in rural areas, are doing amazing work to stem the tide. “Health care providers are pulling out of rural areas, and tribal nations are moving in,” said Muscogee (Creek) Nation Secretary of the Nation and Commerce Elijah McIntosh.

In towns all over rural Oklahoma, tribal investment in health care is immediately noticeable: from Muscogee and Okmulgee to Durant and Ada, modern, innovative facilities offer high-quality care to the surrounding communities.

They’ve really dramatically changed the landscape in rural Oklahoma—in certain parts, at any rate—but also in part of the urban centers as well to make health care accessible and affordable for those individuals. If those facilities weren’t there, where would those patients go?

Dr. Stephen M. Prescott
President
Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation
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