State question to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma to appear on June ballot

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – As Oklahoma officials work on creating a plan to reopen the state following the coronavirus pandemic, Governor Kevin Stitt has announced when Oklahoma voters will be able to voice their opinions on Medicaid expansion.

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

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.Data pix.

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 80
Volunteers turn in signatures for Yes on 802

In January, the Trump administration announced the “Healthy Adult Opportunity,” 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.

The newly issued guidance is targeted at working age, able-bodied adults and does not apply to most of Medicaid’s traditional beneficiaries, including children, seniors or the disabled. However, states that did not expand Medicaid could apply for fixed funding to cover certain low-income adults in their programs.

States that opt to receive a set annual amount could keep a portion of any unused funds, though they must show that access to and quality of care has not declined and they must reinvest that money into the Medicaid program. And they could request to add new conditions for eligibility for these recipients, change their benefits, require them to pay more and limit their drug coverage by implementing a list of approved medications.

Following the announcement, Gov. Stitt threw his support behind the plan, saying he didn’t believe expanding Medicaid would work for Oklahoma.

“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.

OKLAHOMA 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.

Congresswoman Kendra Horn says the plan to block-grant Medicaid would “encourage cuts to health care services, restrict access to health care providers and lifesaving medications, and contribute to hospital closures. Too often, block grants are also misused for political pet projects and to fill holes in the budget.”

The agency could work with states to readjust the funding levels under those circumstances, officials said.

Now, Oklahomans will be able to voice their opinion on expanding Medicaid in the Sooner State.

State Question 802 will be placed on the June 30th primary election ballot.

“Since we launched our campaign, our goal has been to expand Medicaid to nearly 200,000 Oklahomans. Now, more than ever, hardworking Oklahomans need access to healthcare and the ability to keep our rural hospitals open.

In recent weeks, we’ve all come to appreciate just how important it is to be able to see a doctor and have healthcare that can’t be taken away. The only way to ensure that nearly 200,000 Oklahomans receive the care they need is to expand Medicaid by voting Yes On 802.

The stakes could not be higher for our friends, family, and neighbors who work at lower-paying jobs and for rural residents all who need a “yes” vote to keep their hospitals open. It’s why doctors, nurses, and patients all across our state set a record for the most signatures ever collected for a ballot measure in the state’s history, and it is why we’ve been demanding that the governor set an election date for months.

Now, our moment is here. We have 70 days to get our message out and make sure that Oklahomans have the information needed to make this important decision, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

Yes On 802 Campaign Manager Amber England

Organizers say they are pleased that an election date has been set, but they are still concerned about whether it will be safe for Oklahomans to gather at the polls in June.

“After many years of legislative attempts to address this issue failed to advance, Oklahomans will finally have a chance to vote on Medicaid expansion. Oklahoma Senate Democrats have long advocated for our state to accept federal funds for Medicaid expansion. A record number of Oklahomans signed the petition to place this state question on the ballot.

In the midst of this pandemic, we need to make sure Oklahoma voters have an opportunity to weigh in on this important issue. Oklahomans must have plenty of options to vote on State Question 802, including on Election Day, through expanded early voting hours, or with a mail in ballot. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the Legislature and the Oklahoma State Election Board to get this done.”

Senate Democratic Leader Kay Floyd

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