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Group seeking signatures to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY – A group of Oklahomans is kicking off a campaign to give voters the choice on whether or not to expand Medicaid in the Sooner State.

Expanding Medicaid eligibility under the federal Affordable Care Act would extend health insurance to those earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $33,000 for a family of four.

About 90% of the cost of the expansion would be funded with federal dollars. However, critics argue that the state’s 10% share would cost too much.

“Rejecting available federal funds to cover the uninsured over the past decade has hurt families and increased health care costs. Things need to change,” said Jay Johnson, president of Duncan Regional Hospital. “It doesn’t make sense to send billions of our tax dollars to Washington, D.C., when we can keep that money right here in our community.”

The group ‘Oklahomans Decide Healthcare’ say Oklahoma’s decision to not expand Medicaid has hit rural Oklahoma particularly hard.

“Since 2016, eight hospitals have declared bankruptcy and six have closed their doors–all in rural Oklahoma.” Patti Davis, president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association, said.

Organizers say expanding Medicaid would affect nearly 200,000 Oklahomans who are often farmers, ranchers and small business employees.

“Hardworking Oklahomans whose jobs don’t offer insurance should not have to lie awake at night wondering if they can afford life-saving care,” said Erin Taylor, a proponent of Medicaid expansion and a disability advocate who has a 17-year-old son who receives insurance from Medicaid.“There are too many people out there who are having to choose between healthcare and putting food on the table.”

After taking office earlier this year, Gov. Kevin Stitt said that he wasn’t sure about expanding Medicaid in Oklahoma.

 He warns that he is concerned about expanding Medicaid because the state may have to end up paying for that expansion down the road.

“When Washington, D.C. wants to end a program, we are left holding the bag and covering the cost,” he said in February.

Despite those concerns, the group is hoping to collect 178,000 signatures to put the issue on the November 2020 ballot.

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