Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has placed State Question 802 on the June 30 primary election ballot. The proposal, which was authorized for a statewide vote in 2020 after receiving a record number of initiative petition signatures, would expand Medicaid for working Oklahomans up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level and place the requirement in the Oklahoma Constitution.
“The federal poverty line changes annually, but for example, if this measure were in effect in 2019, the measure generally would have covered a single adult making less than $17,236 annually and adults in a family of four making less than $35,535 annually,” according to the summary quoted in Stitt’s declaration (embedded below).
Stitt and Republican leaders of the Oklahoma Legislature had been attempting to strike an agreement over an alternate version of Medicaid expansion, but COVID-19’s disruption of the 2020 legislative session has moved negotiations largely out of public view.
Still, Stitt submitted a state plan amendment to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services agency requesting to expand the adult Medicaid population in Oklahoma. He has also directed the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to submit a waiver application for the Healthy Adult Opportunity program he is calling SoonerCare 2.0. That effort would include modest insurance premiums and other non-traditional elements aimed at controlling costs.
The public comment period on the SoonerCare 2.0 proposal ended April 15, and the OHCA will be hosting a Zoom meeting at 11 a.m. Monday, April 20, to discuss changes it made to the waiver language.
The Oklahoma Hospital Association, state Democrats and others in the health care realm have balked at SoonerCare 2.0, often calling it a ploy to dissuade voters from supporting State Question 802 and open a door for “managed care,” a loaded term that refers to private firms being contracted to oversee Medicaid, which is called SoonerCare in Oklahoma.
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“Since we launched our campaign, our goal has been to expand Medicaid to nearly 200,000 Oklahomans. Now, more than ever, hardworking Oklahomans need access to health care and the ability to keep our rural hospitals open,” said Yes on 802 campaign manager Amber England. “In recent weeks, we’ve all come to appreciate just how important it is to be able to see a doctor and have healthcare that can’t be taken away. The only way to ensure that nearly 200,000 Oklahomans receive the care they need is to expand Medicaid by voting yes on 802.”
During his weekly media availability earlier Friday, Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R-OKC) said he has not monitored the OHCA waiver application process closely.
“I’m still of the mind that Oklahomans are better served by not expanding Medicaid,” Treat said.
Treat and other Republicans have particularly expressed concern about how SQ 802 would limit adjustments to Medicaid eligibility of the expansion population by placing the language in the Oklahoma Constitution.
But Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd (D-OKC) said Friday that her caucus supports SQ 802 and would like to see the Legislature expand early voting and pursue other ballot access measures owing to the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on public life.
“We need to make sure Oklahoma voters have an opportunity to weigh in on this important issue,” Floyd said. “Oklahomans must have plenty of options to vote on State Question 802, including on Election Day, through expanded early voting hours, or with a mail in ballot. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the Legislature and the Oklahoma State Election Board to get this done.”
The last day to register to vote in the June 30 primary election is June 5, and the last day to request an absentee ballot will be June 24, according to the Oklahoma State Election Board.
(Update: This story was updated at 5:50 p.m. Friday, April 17, to include additional information.)