OKLAHOMA CITY – A controversial bill that would eliminate Medicaid coverage for thousands of Oklahomans passed in the House of Representatives.
House Bill 2665, authored by Rep. Doug Cox, would remove 111,000 Oklahomans from receiving Medicaid coverage.
The bill would eliminate Medicaid benefits for any “nonpregnant able-bodied adult under sixty-five years of age.”
“It was designed to help low-income children, low-income pregnant women, the blind and disabled and low-income aged people who need help caring for themselves,” Cox told the Oklahoman. “This bill does not affect a single one of those people.”
Organizers say the bill would save the state $130 million a year.
However, critics say the bill is about more than money, adding that it mainly affects 80,000 single mothers.
House Minority Leader Scott Inman had some strong words for his fellow lawmakers on the House floor on Wednesday.
Inman started his argument by telling the lawmakers that his life mission can be found in Proverbs 31.
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy,” it reads.
“I know my good friend from Sapulpa got up and said, ‘Oh, those Democrats, they castigate us with Scripture all the time and try to make us feel bad because what we believe in our faithful life, in our private life, they want us to do in the government life, as well.’ And somehow, that’s bad. Ladies and gentlemen from my caucus, how many times have we heard somebody stand up and offer up what was considered to be ‘pro-life’ legislation? And said that if we’re gonna take what we believe about the life of the unborn child is sacred in the church, then we need a government that reflects those values? Then they stand up and say, ‘If we’re gonna believe in what our faith tells us of traditional marriage, then we need a government that reflects those values.’ How come the folks on the other side of the aisle are always so quick to take those social issues and make darn sure the government reflects those values, but when it comes to what Christ talked about more than anything else in his word, which was stand up and protect the poor, anytime we try and do that, ‘Oh my Lord, we can’t do that. Can’t do that. That’s a bridge too far.’ Ladies and gentlemen, you know it’s not a bridge too far because, you know what, it’s not as Abraham Lincoln said, to paraphrase, ‘It’s not a government for the business, by the corporations and of the special interests,’ folks. It is a government of the people, by the people and for the people.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, you don’t solve the problems facing our healthcare system in Oklahoma by taking the uninsured rolls and increasing them. You solve the problem facing healthcare in Oklahoma by expanding those who have health insurance,” Inman said.
During the opposition to the bill, Inman reiterated who would be most affected by the bill.
“It’s 110,000 Oklahomans. I know there’s 3.7 million, so what’s 110,000 people? 80,000 of them are women who have children at home. Many of them may work because they can make up to $9,000, they just can’t afford to work full-time because they’re taking care of their kid and can’t afford daycare. Doesn’t matter- kick them off. Our values- that Bible says kick them off. Kick them off. 80,000 of that 110,000 are women with children, kick them off. Those same women, we want to make sure they’ve got those resources to have that child, never ever think about an abortion, and I’m with you, that’s how I vote, but by God, once that child is born, if the parents don’t have enough money, so be it.”
Inman reminded legislators about why the state is facing such a shortfall.
“We’ve cut taxes in this state by $1 billion over the last decade. We’ve increased tax credits and exemptions by $2 billion, right? We did those things and we didn’t expand Medicaid because we said it would cost too much. So we passed $1 billion worth of income taxes, we gave $2 billion of tax credits and exemptions and we refused to expand Medicaid under what premise? Under the premise the economy would grow and we’d have so much money coming in that we wouldn’t have to do stuff like this. But it hasn’t happened. We said it wouldn’t and it hasn’t happened. The choice is not between Francis [a nursing home resident] and some poor woman in Drumright. The choice is between one of those major corporations, who even when the economy gets cut in Oklahoma, they still get their money. The choice is between somebody who lives up in Gaillardia and the woman who lives in Drumright. [Gaillardia residents] got their income tax cut, [woman who lives in Drumright] got cut off the rolls. That’s a choice. You want to make a difficult choice? Tell those folks who can best afford it. We were told, ‘Well, these are the least vulnerable.’ Bull! The least vulnerable are the ones who keep taking the tax dollars out of the GR every day and have health insurance. These are not the least vulnerable, those are the least vulnerable. They can afford to pay for it. But we’ve told them, ‘We will protect you, we will protect your tax credits and exemptions and we will kick these people off the rolls. You have to understand that my life verse is speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves and defend the rights of the poor and needy. And in the book of Matthew, it did not say the meek shall inherit poverty and the wealthy shall inherit the Earth. That’s not what they said. You have a choice to stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves and defend the rights of the poor and needy.”
Despite his impassioned speech, the Oklahoma House of Representatives passed the bill 65-35. It will now head to the Senate for consideration.