Group calling on Oklahoma governor to set election date for Medicaid expansion vote

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma advocacy group is pushing for Governor Kevin Stitt to set a date for an election regarding Medicaid expansion in the Sooner State.

In recent years, there has been a push across the state to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma.

Since the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2014, Oklahoma has rejected federal money for Medicaid expansion. A bill that would expand Medicaid coverage in the state died in the Legislature last session.

​”Right now, the fact that we’re not accepting Medicaid expansion, we’re turning away over a billion dollars a year annually​,” Yes on 802 Campaign Manager Amber England said.

Volunteers turn in signatures for Yes on 802
Volunteers turn in signatures for Yes on 802

In October, volunteers with ‘Yes on 802’ turned in thousands of signatures in order to get State Question 802, which would expand Medicaid, on the ballot. The group needed 178,000 signatures to move their petition forward.

In the end, the group broke a state record for turning in the most signatures in state history with 313,000. After being analyzed by the Secretary of State’s office, the agency verified 300,000 signatures.

Opponents of that move say the cost of expanding Medicaid is simply too expensive.

​”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 federal government pays the other 90 percent of the expansion.

Volunteers turn in signatures for Yes on 802
Volunteers turn in signatures for Yes on 802

Gov. Stitt has since thrown his support behind the Trump administration’s “Healthy Adult Opportunity” plan, which permits states to apply for so-called block grants to cover certain low-income adults, particularly those who gained benefits under the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion provision.

Federal funding, which is now open-ended, would be capped, with states receiving either a lump sum or a specific amount per enrollee.

“I have sought Oklahomans’ input in crafting my administration’s healthcare plan. They have told me that they want more access to care in rural Oklahoma; they want us to address wait times for basic healthcare services for our most vulnerable populations; and they want better care, quality care – not excessive care.

I am also here today, because Oklahomans want their federal tax dollars to be returned to the state and put to work. But efforts to do this through amending our Constitution to force Medicaid Expansion are wrong and will be ineffective and will fail to fix our problems,” Stitt said.

Governor Kevin Stitt

Among the main concerns about block grant funding is that the lump sum model cannot adjust to economic downturns when enrollment typically increases and that both the fixed annual amount and the per-person cap versions would have difficulty handling spikes in health care treatment costs.

Once Gov. Stitt announced his support for the plan, some state leaders spoke out against the move.

“It seems like a desperate attempt to head off what it looks like the voters approve either in June or November,” House Minority Leader Emily Virgin said after the announcement.

“Oklahomans have made it clear they want to vote to decide this issue for themselves. At this point, what we want to know from the Governor is when Oklahomans will be able to vote Yes On 802,” The Yes on 802 campaign said in a statement.

The governor said he is worried that if the state question is passed, federal tax dollars will be lost.

“It would be disastrous to our state if it passed. If it passed, we would not be able to take advantage of any of these waivers and different ways to administer health care in Oklahoma,” Stitt said.

Governor Kevin Stitt
Governor Kevin Stitt

Last week, KFOR reached out to the governor’s office to ask about an election date for State Question 802.

“The governor is actively working with his team to look at all scheduling options laid out through statutory guidelines. We do not have a set date at this time,” said Baylee Lakey, Communications Director for the Oklahoma Governor’s Office.

On Wednesday morning, volunteers with Together Oklahoma say they will be delivering a petition to the governor’s office, calling for an election date to be set for the state question.

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