The goal is to prevent lawmakers from enacting regulations that could make qualifying for coverage difficult, such as job requirements, a tool favored by President Donald Trump and many Republicans to curtail the program.
Nearly 200,000 low-income adult residents could obtain health insurance if the measure passes. The expansion would also bring just over $ 1 billion in additional federal funds annually to Oklahoma, said Amber England, the initiative’s campaign manager. The state would have to pay 10% of the cost.
Missouri residents will vote to add the Medicaid expansion to the state constitution on August 4. And advocates have their eyes on Florida by 2022, said Jonathan Schleifer, executive director of The Fairness Project, which helped organize the voting campaigns.
Some 14 states, all with Republican governors or GOP-led legislatures, have yet to embrace the Medicaid expansion, which began in 2014 and covers low-income adults with incomes of up to about $ 17,000 a year. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than 2 million Americans fall into the so-called coverage gap.
Oklahoma has the second highest rate of uninsured in the nation, behind only Texas. About 14.2% of state residents sooner lacked coverage in 2018, according to the latest available data from the Census Bureau.
Titled “Yes on 802 Oklahomans Decide Healthcare,” the voting initiative garnered a record 313,700 signatures, with people in the state’s 77 counties supporting it. A $ 2 million digital television, radio and advertising campaign ran for the past six weeks, England said. In addition, organizers celebrated more than a dozen Zoom happy hours, drove a bus to 21 cities, sent postcards and signs hanging on doors.
“Everyone in the state, whether they live in a rural community or live in an urban area, knows someone who doesn’t have medical care and who doesn’t go to the doctor,” England said, adding that such expansion would help rural hospitals. with liquidity problems, which often must treat patients without insurance.
In an unusual twist, Republican Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt requested to expand Medicaid in April, but included a job and premium requirement of up to $ 15 per month for families. However, the following month he vetoed an increase to a hospital fee that would have helped finance the measure. He said he would not fully pay for the expansion because the pandemic caused an increase in unemployment that would have increased the number of Medicaid members.
Neither the governor’s office nor the state Health Care Authority responded to requests for comment.