OKLAHOMA CITY – Yes on 802 campaign representatives say they have enough signatures to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot next year.
Petition organizers needed 178,000 signatures to put the issue to a vote, and Campaign Manager Amber England said they hit that number this week, but they plan to keep collecting signatures until the October 28th deadline.
“We know we can’t rest on our laurels because our opposition has already tried to kick us off the ballot once,” England told News 4. “We know they’ll stop at nothing to make certain that Oklahomans don’t get to decide this issue.”
England said for the past ten years Oklahoma has lost a huge amount of money every year because it hasn’t expanded Medicaid.
“That’s money that we’ve already lost, over a $1 billion a year,” England said. “Almost a decade that we’ve been waiting for a decision from politicians to make this decision, and they haven’t made it. They’ve kicked the can down the road.”
It’s not just about the money. England says it’s also the right thing to do for the thousands of Oklahomans that need health coverage.
“Right now over 200,000 Oklahomans aren’t getting the care they need. They don’t have the access to care,” England said. “We’re losing over a billion dollars of our tax payer money that goes to Washington D.C. every year that we could invest right here in our community.”
The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs challenged the petition when it was first filed back in May. It says expanding Medicaid is not a good direction for Oklahoma.
“I think that the Oklahoma public is being sold a false set of good right now that it’s going to improve health outcomes,” OCPA Policy Research Fellow Kaitlyn Finley told News 4.
Starting in 2020, the federal government only covers 90 percent of the costs associated with the Medicaid expansion and the state is left to pay what’s left over. OCPA officials said that could end up costing Oklahoma tax payers around $374 million a year.
“It could add up to 628,000 able bodied adults onto Medicaid rolls and cost tax payers a lot of money,” Finley said. “Oklahoma tax payers.”
OCPA officials said there are better ways to improve healthcare than expanding Medicaid.
“Instead of doing that, Oklahoma receives about $70 million each year from tobacco companies for their previous settlement,” Finley said. “We could direct that toward rural hospitals.”
The proposed state question expands Medicaid to cover certain low-income adults whose income does not exceed 133 percent of the federal poverty level.