Medicaid expansion leads to battle over TSET funds in SQ 814

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – There is a state question on the ballot next month that legislators say will help pay for Medicaid expansion, but opponents say it’s taking money away from the fight to stop smoking in Oklahoma.

Back in June, voters approved a state question that will expand Medicaid.

Now, state law makers are looking for ways find an estimated $250 million dollars to pay for it.

Their proposed solution is to redirect incoming money from the state’s tobacco settlement.

“If we can’t start finding sources to pay for this health care,  education is going to take a hit,” Senator Kim David, the Republican from Porter said about the state question she authored, 814.

Each year since 1998, the state gets a payment from Big Tobacco. Last year, it was about $67 million.

75% of that goes to into the TSET fund while the other 25% goes directly to the state. TSET then makes interest off that endowment. Last year it totaled $47 million, which is their current yearly budget. 

State question 814 would flip-flop the percentages, putting 75% of the new revenue into the general health care fund to help Medicaid expansion and 25% to the TSET fund.

“This is strictly new money coming in. I wanted to make sure that their fund could continue to grow and it didn’t stagnate,” said David.

But TSET advocates say those Big Tobacco dollars need to stay where they are.

“TSET has been very effect in reducing smoking prevalence in Oklahoma,” said Matt Glanville with the American Cancer Society and the group “NO on 814.”

He says TSET programs like their marketing campaign and Tobacco Help Hotline have helped cut overall smoking in our state by 8% and by almost 17% among Oklahoma teens.

“We are one of the leading states in youth use in e-cigarette. TSET needs to be able to combat that,” said Glanville.

“All of those Tobacco cessation programs that they currently pay for will now be covered under Medicaid,” said David.

Senator David says with COVID-19 causing more unemployment, there are more Oklahomans without healthcare insurance, which means Medicaid expansion could cost more than initially anticipated.

And with state tax revenues low thanks to the pandemic and the global dip in oil prices…

“I don’t want to take money out of education to help pay for healthcare when we have a whole fund coming into the state who’s whole purpose of that fund is to pay for healthcare for that population,” said David.

“I think it’s the right way to expand Medicaid expansion,” said Governor Kevin Stitt.

Governor Stitt says under State Question 814, TSET’s $47 million budget won’t be cut, it just won’t grow as fast.

“This state question doesn’t touch the billion dollar corpus, it only touches the new money coming in,” said Stitt.

But opponents of 814 say there are other ways to pay for Medicaid expansion.

“We are not making a true new investment in public health in Oklahoma. We are simply playing a shell game with public health monies,” said Glanville.

Oklahoma voters will decide what will happen to the funds on Nov. 3.

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