LAWTON, Okla. (TNN) -The only statewide decisions to be voted on in the upcoming primary election, will be State Question 802, which would expand Medicaid in Oklahoma.
SQ 802 would amend Oklahoma’s constitution, expanding the Medicaid program to include certain low-income adults between the ages of 18 and 65 whose income does not exceed 133% of the federal poverty level. Currently the poverty level is set at $12,760 for individuals and $26,200 for a family of four according to healthcare.gov.
Under the current eligibility qualifications, there are about 800,000 Oklahomans enrolled in Medicaid. If SQ 802 passes, as many as 200,000 more uninsured Oklahomans could qualify for coverage.
Jay Johnson, the CEO and President for Duncan Regional Hospital, and representative from the Yes on 802 campaign says expanding Medicaid would put a billion dollars back into the state’s economy.
“The way it comes back is it goes back into every citizen that qualifies for Medicaid, then has a form of payment,” said Johnson. “It gets back into hospitals and doctors, and into anybody else that qualifies to accept Medicaid.”
John Tidwell is the chairman for the Vote No on 802 Association. He says 802 does not explain how the expansion would be paid for.
“We now have a potential of a 2 billion dollar shortfall if Medicaid expansion passes,” said Tidwell. “A 2 billion dollar shortfall that they’re going to fill that hole, one of two ways, they either raise taxes, or they cut core services.”
However, Johnson says the state already has the funding for the expansion.
“In my 5 or 10 years of working on this, we’ve never had a conversation about, ‘hey can we raid another fund to help pay for health care,’ said Johnson. “There’s enough money in the system to not have to do that. All of us already pay the taxes. So there are no new taxes to do this. We pay every year whether we want this for our citizens or not.”
Tidwell says people should be concerned with adding this measure to our state’s constitution, because it forces the legislature to fund it, no matter what.
“If the Medicaid program changes 10 years from now, and becomes something completely different, and something is added to it by a completely different president, with a completely different direction for the country, then that’s in our state’s constitution,” said Tidwell. “You’re basically taking away the people’s representation in how Medicaid should be funded and how those programs should be delivered.”
Oklahoma is one of 14 states that have not expanded their Medicaid system.
The Oklahoma Primary election takes place on June 30th.
For information on sample ballots, voter status, and polling places, you can go to elections.ok.gov.