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Special report: How to enroll in expanded Soonercare

Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 3:25 PM CDT
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LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - The Oklahoma Policy Institute is enlisting organizations across the state to help enroll individuals that qualify for Medicaid after the recent expansion.

Since Soonercare expanded, over 160,000 Oklahomans who didn’t have health insurance before are now covered.

After Oklahomans voted to expand Medicaid last year, it removed several eligibility requirements, making healthcare possible for a whole new population.

Angela Monson with the Oklahoma Policy Institute is ready to help spread the word about what the expansion can do for Oklahomans.

“Previously, you had to meet one of three categorical tests. You had to either be a dependent child under the age of 18, a parent of a dependent child under the age of 18 or a person who was disabled according to Social Security disability to qualify,” Monson said.

Even then, applicants still had to meet an income requirement.

You can see the new requirements on this chart.

Now, any adult ages 19 to 64 whose income is 138% of the federal poverty level or lower will qualify for coverage.

“Think about it, an unhealthy adult is not going to be able to work or be productive or take care of a family,” Monson said. “An unhealthy child is not going to be able to perform as well at school to learn to become a productive adult.”

Dr. Daniel Joyce championed the expansion with the Oklahoma State Medical Association.

He serves low-income patients right here at the Lawton Community Health Center and Hearts That Care free clinic.

“I lost a number of patients over the years because they weren’t able to get their colonoscopy, they weren’t able to get their mammogram, they weren’t able to get it,” Joyce said.

He said those people don’t want to be uninsured, but they don’t have a choice sometimes.

The expansion changes everything and will make our state healthier.

“Now with Medicaid expansion, we can do that. We can get them back out there, get the preventative stuff,” Joyce said. “Prevent the lung cancer, the breast cancer that we see that’s so prevalent.”

There’s no premium and most visits don’t require a co-pay.

If there is, Monson says it usually doesn’t cost much or can be waived if the patient can’t afford it.

“Particularly now as COVID-19 and other kinds of healthcare conditions really scare the you-know-what out all of us, the ability to access healthcare when we need to, really resolves or relieves a lot of the personal stress that many families are feeling,” Monson said.

Dental health is included, too.

Medicaid used to only cover dental extractions. Now it covers it all.

“One of the new features of the expanded program is a full array of preventative services for adults in the Medicaid program and we know that dental care is just as important as any other care for any other part of the body and really important for seniors as we age,” Monson said.

Even with the expanded eligibility requirements, many healthcare professionals aren’t seeing the amount of people sign up yet that they expected.

There seems to be an information barrier about how to enroll Oklahomans in rural areas.

Jay Johnson with Duncan Regional Hospital said many times people end up in the emergency room because they’re not regularly seeing a doctor.

“The more rural you are, the harder it is to get information to them because we’ve worked in some counties that don’t even have a billboard,” Johnson said.

Healthcare professionals are looking for ways around the information barrier.

Most hospitals -- including Comanche County Memorial Hospital and Duncan Regional Hospital -- have a person dedicated to helping people enroll for Medicaid.

In Lawton, the Salvation Army, Great Plains Improvement Foundation and African Methodist Episcopal Church will help you fill out the application and enroll.

Captain Jake Law with the Salvation Army said they see people on their worst days.

“It’s the difference between some getting so sick that they could die and waiting too long to go to the hospital,” Law said. “We have people that, probably, that is at the top of their list of things that they need help with.”

At all three, you can walk-in, schedule an appointment or call the office to sign up over the phone.

RX Director at Great Plains Improvement Foundation Carolynne Worrell said she even gets hugs from people after helping them sign up.

“They’re so happy because now they’re family can get it. We had a guy, a single father, and him and his kids couldn’t get on because of how much he made,” Worrell said. “Now, because of the gap that’s been placed higher, him and his children are able to get health insurance.”

According to Monson, even if you’re slightly above the income eligibility, you should still apply.

“If your income happens to be a bit higher than the income eligibility for Soonercare here in Oklahoma, your application will be forwarded to the federal healthcare marketplace and tax credits will be available to you, so you can continue to afford,” Monson said. “In some cases, the tax credits are enough to cover that private insurance premium.”

You can also call 1-800-987-7767 for help with the application or go to apply.okhca.org.

“Don’t wait until you’re sick or you’re in the hospital,” Monson said. “Take advantage of these services now.”

Below is contact information for the three places in Lawton that help enroll individuals:

Great Plains Improvement Foundation, Inc.

Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

2 SE Lee Blvd

(580) 353-2364

Barnett Chapel AME

Tuesday - Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

3421 SW Abiline Dr.

(405) 965-1715

Lawton Salvation Army

Monday - Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

1306 SW E Ave.

(580) 355-1802

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