The nearly 200,000 Oklahomans lacking health insurance because they fall into the coverage gap – making too much to qualify but too little to afford care on the insurance marketplace – could soon be covered by the state’s Medicaid plan.
In Tuesday night’s landmark vote, Oklahoma voters narrowly approved a measure that will expand Medicaid to cover more working adults with low incomes. State Question 802 passed with 50.48% of the vote, or by just 6,488 votes. The move protects Medicaid expansion in the state and prevents state lawmakers from limiting or reversing expansion.
While Medicaid expansion efforts have been underway for several months, this win comes as COVID-19 infection rates are on the rise in the state. Many low earning essential workers including those in grocery stores, nursing homes and restaurants, either can’t afford insurance or work in jobs that do not offer it. They are often the people most at risk of contracting COVID-19 since they must report to work in-person in order to make ends meet.
“This was a victory for all Oklahomans. It took all of us – child advocacy, health care, faith-based, and business organizations, and countless devoted individuals – to make this win a reality,” said Joe Dorman, the CEO of Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy. “As voters went to the polls Tuesday, Oklahoma had the second-worst rate of insurance coverage in the nation. Now, and only now, Oklahoma is truly on its way to becoming a ‘top ten’ state.”
The mission of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy is to create awareness, take action and support policy to improve the health, safety and well-being of Oklahoma’s children. The nonprofit received a grant in June from Voices for Healthy Kids, an initiative of the American Heart Association, to help make this ballot measure a reality. The grant provided the much-needed funding and technical assistance to help get the measure over the finish line.
“Oklahomans took a big step to improve health across the state by approving the expansion of Medicaid coverage for nearly 200,000 people,” Jabraan Pasha, MD, said in a statement. Pasha is the American Heart Association-Tulsa president and an associate professor of medicine with OU Physicians at the University of Oklahoma. “The American Heart Association supports expanding Medicaid because people living with low incomes are disproportionately affected by heart disease, hypertension and stroke. Medicaid serves as the coverage backbone for the health care services these individuals need.”