OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Supporters of a movement to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma say their push for a state question on the issue is moving forward.
Organizers say expanding Medicaid would cover 200,000 Oklahomans who can’t afford health insurance, and would help single persons who make $21,595 per year or less.
“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 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,” England said.
In October, volunteers with ‘Yes on 802’ turned in thousands of signatures in order to get State Question 802 on the ballot. The group needed 178,000 signatures to move their petition forward.
Organizers say volunteers collected signatures across the state in not only big cities but also small towns like Wakita, Altus, and Waurika, where expanding Medicaid would impact rural hospitals.
England said they were not only turning in the 178,000 signatures but were breaking a state record for turning in the most signatures in history, collecting a total of 313,000 signatures.
"It says that this issue is personal to Oklahomans," England said.
Opponents of the 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.
About a month after supporters turned in the signatures to the Oklahoma Secretary of State's Office, organizers say their cause is moving forward.
Earlier this week, officials with 'Yes on 802' say that state leaders validated close to 300,000 signatures, which is well above the 178,000 needed to qualify for the ballot.