OKLAHOMA CITY – A group who is seeking a public vote on whether to expand Medicaid to tens of thousands of low-income Oklahomans will have to clear a legal challenge from the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.
On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Supreme Court will hear arguments from both sides of the issue. Ultimately, the justices will decide whether the group can proceed with gathering the nearly 178,000 signatures they will need to get the question on the 2020 ballot.
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.
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.
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.