Oklahoma To Decide On Medicaid Expansion In Primary Election

Thursday, June 25th 2020, 9:09 pm
By: Kristen Weaver

As the first round of voters cast their ballots today during early voting, one of the most anticipated issues is the choice for Oklahomans to expand Medicaid.

State Question 802 was put to a vote after Oklahomans signed a petition. If voters approve it, Oklahoma would expand Medicaid coverage.

Oklahoma is one of 14 states that hasn't yet expanded Medicaid. If it did, that would mean some low income adults - age 18 to 65 - would be eligible for health care.

"It will provide health coverage for those that make $15,000 to 17,000 or less," said Lucky Lamons, the Ascension St. John Chief Advocacy Officer.

Lamons is urging people to vote Yes on 802 because he said Oklahoma is missing out on federal money to pay for Medicaid that the state is already paying for. 

"For every one dollar our state provides for Medicaid expansion the federal government matches that nine," he said. "We put up $135 million and get back a billion."

Kaitlyn Finley with the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, who wants people to vote No on the state question, and said the costs would be enormous to the state. She said Oklahoma should focus that money elsewhere like education. 

"The state could be on the hook for up to $374 million dollars annually each year."

She said there are other ways to fund healthcare in the state that don't involve the federal government. She also said there are other ways to directly help struggling rural hospitals.

"24 rural hospitals in 16 expansion states have closed," she said.

Lamons said that saying yes to the bill would help hospitals immensely, and bring thousands of jobs to the state. He says the bottom line is that this would allow poor people to afford preventative care instead of waiting until they're facing a health emergency to see a doctor. 

Early voting continues Friday and Saturday and Tuesday is election day.