OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – “Yes on 802” campaign leaders tell News 4 that they will turn in their signatures by the end of the week.
Advocates have been gathering signatures on a petition to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot.
Medicaid expansion would cover 200,000 Oklahomans who can’t afford health insurance right now.
The expansion would help people who make $21,595 per year for a single person or $34,248 for a family of four.
“They make over the poverty level right now that would qualify them for Medicaid, but they can’t afford to actually go out and buy a plan on the market, so they simply go without healthcare insurance,” Yes on 802 Campaign Manager Amber England said.
Since the Affordable Care Act passed in 2014, Oklahoma has rejected federal money for Medicaid expansion.
A bill to expand it died in the state legislature earlier this year.
Now, advocates have gathered enough signatures to put the measure on a ballot.
”Right now, the fact that we’re not accepting Medicaid expansion, we’re turning away over a billion dollars a year annually,” England said.
Opponents say the cost of the program is too steep.
”Any state that does Medicaid expansion is responsible for 10 percent of the costs, whatever they are,” Jonathan Small, President of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, said.
The conservative think tank has opposed expanding Medicaid from the beginning and claim people signing the 802 petition aren’t fully informed.
”They gather signatures, basically saying, ‘hey would you like cookies and ice cream every day?’ and pretend there’s a huge inertia for whatever the petition initiative is that’s being circulated.”
Opponents also say lawmakers will have to raise taxes to pay for the 10% of the program the state is responsible for.
The federal government pays the other 90%.
Supporters point to the eight rural hospitals that have recently closed in Oklahoma and poor health statistics as reasons to finally expand coverage.
“It can only help health outcomes in Oklahoma, and when you’re dead last and trying to be a top ten state, this is an easy way to try to boost those numbers,” England said.
Yes on 802 volunteers have gathered many more signatures than the required 178,000 in order to have a cushion in case there is a challenge.
Opponents can challenge the signatures or ballot title.
If there are no legal setbacks, the governor will decide when the state question will be voted on.