SQ 802
Homes in Oklahoma City display yard signs in support of State Question 802 on June 22, 2020. (Tres Savage)

The State Chamber of Oklahoma’s board of directors voted to endorse State Question 802 this morning. Oklahomans will decide June 30 whether to pass SQ 802, which would codify Medicaid expansion in the Oklahoma Constitution.

“The board noted specific concerns with amending the state’s constitution to offer expansion. The chamber has supported the concept of Medicaid expansion, advocating at the Legislature for coverage of Oklahoma’s uninsured through state statute,” said Chad Warmington, president and CEO of the State Chamber of Oklahoma. “A constitution should serve as a document to establish a government’s principles and foundations. It should not dictate specific policies or program details. That function is best served by state statute.”

Despite those concerns, Warmington said the State Chamber of Oklahoma’s board now supports SQ 802 and its implementation, which will require a funding solution from the Legislature next session if it passes.

“Upon passage of State Question 802, the chamber will closely monitor its implementation to ensure the coverage offered to uninsured Oklahomans provides quality care and remains affordable for the state,” Warmington said.

The Tulsa Regional Chamber and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber had already announced their support for SQ 802, but the State Chamber of Oklahoma’s announcement puts even more of the business community’s weight behind the proposal.


Medicaid expansion

SQ 802: Voting on Medicaid expansion during a pandemic by Andrea DenHoed

The Yes on SQ 802 campaign has been airing television ads for weeks, with campaign director Amber England telling NonDoc that her team is cautiously confident.

“We have strong grassroots support all across the state,” England said. “We’re feeling as good as we can, but taking nothing for granted, and we’re going to campaign until the very last minute.”

After learning of the State Chamber of Oklahoma’s endorsement, England said her campaign appreciates the support.

“The State Chamber is an organization committed to the well-being of Oklahoma’s business community. Their endorsement shows just how vital State Question 802 is, not only to the health care of individuals but for the longterm prosperity of our state,” England said. “Members of the State Chamber know that bringing home $1 billion of our federal tax dollars every year will create jobs, boost local hospitals and strengthen Oklahoma’s economy.”

Opposition to the measure has mostly come from Americans For Prosperity, the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs and top Republican politicians, including Gov. Kevin Stitt. At NonDoc’s GOP primary debate for Oklahoma 5th Congressional District on June 18, all five candidates on stage indicated their opposition to SQ 802.

Democratic members of the Oklahoma Legislature have strongly voiced support for SQ 802 over the past year, and the Democratic caucuses have publicly called for Medicaid expansion in recent years.

Meanwhile, Republicans in the Legislature have largely opposed SQ 802 when speaking publicly, though some have insisted that some form of Medicaid expansion needs occur. With the Legislature and Stitt failing to strike a deal over the past two years, SQ 802 has only gained momentum.

“I think (SQ) 802 is likely to pass,” House Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols (R-OKC) said at a forum earlier this month.

Much of the stated opposition to SQ 802 from Republican legislators focuses on the fact that the Medicaid eligibility limit would be placed in the Oklahoma Constitution, which requires a vote of the people to amend. Proponents of SQ 802 have said that is intentional, as they do not trust legislative leaders to uphold voters’ wishes after the election.

The fate of SQ 802 will be determined Tuesday, June 30, during Oklahoma’s primary election.

(Update: This post was updated at 4:20 p.m. Wednesday, June 24, to include comment from England.)