[Cross-posted from the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families]
Oklahoma voters took a historic step and nudged their state forward toward becoming the 38th in the nation (including Washington, DC) to provide residents more affordable health insurance through their Medicaid program. The constitutional amendment passed by voters requires the state to open the doors to coverage no later than July 1, 2021. State leaders have been debating Medicaid expansion for years but will hopefully move quickly to implement coverage now that voters have spoken.
Estimates are that the expansion will cover at least 215,000 additional state residents with affordable health coverage. The next steps are to get a funding mechanism passed by the legislature while the Governor and relevant agencies must move forward with securing federal approval and set up plans to start enrolling those who need coverage.
However, in recent weeks, opponents of more affordable health coverage options for residents through voter-approved expansion – including Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt – have complained that the 10% match the state must pay to bring the 90% federal funding into the state is somehow unaffordable and unattainable. The paucity of this argument springs into sharp relief to any voter with a memory longer than Oklahoma’s beautiful state bird, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.
After all, just over a month ago, Oklahoma’s legislature worked with the Governor to easily pass a comprehensive funding plan for the Governor’s version of Medicaid expansion (which, changing his mind midstream, the Governor promptly vetoed). How quickly legislators have forgotten their own legislative success! Perhaps this new legislative opposition stems from the fact that now voters have approved a Medicaid expansion plan that can’t be changed or eliminated on a whim. And given the roller-coaster history of the Medicaid expansion debate in Oklahoma, voters have every right to be suspicious.
While the vote is over and Oklahoma voters have directed their elected representatives to expand Medicaid, the history of opposition to expansion provides some key points to watch going forward: Read more