Facts and myths on Oklahoma Medicaid expansion proposal

The impact of the record-breaking 2020 healthcare state question causes confusion.

By the Oct. 28 deadline, the petition to put the Oklahoma Medicaid expansion on the 2020 ballot had blown past the required 178,00 signatures, getting over 313,000 signatures. For reference, that’s roughly eight percent of the entire population of the state, or approximately one in every 13 people. This support for a state question set the record for signatures on an Oklahoma petition.

As with anything happening in politics, there is a lot of misinformation circulating. Here’s a quick guide to what’s true and what is not concerning the prospective change.

Myth: The initiative will be a huge tax burden on Oklahoma citizens

Fact: Because of Oklahoma’s relatively low median income in comparison to other states, the federal government would cover 90 percent of the cost of the expansion. The estimated cost for Oklahoma is projected at roughly 100 million. However, the new cost for the state would be largely alleviated by disappearing costs that were going to the same place. The state typically covers the cost of uninsured persons who receive care, and the expansion would extend to cover many of those people. It would be a very cheap endeavor for Oklahoma in comparison to other states that have already adopted the measure.

Myth: This is a ploy of the Democratic Party.

Fact: While the expansion would only be accepting some of the change proposed by the Affordable Care Act, the expansion has started finding bipartisan support across the nation. Many right-leaning states have already implemented the expansion, and more have passed the change into law but are still working on implementation, including Nebraska and Utah.

Myth: People will be forced into Medicaid.

Fact: No one will be forced to sign up for Medicaid. People will be eligible if they make at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line (the text says 133 percent, but the first five percent of income is not counted). That means for an individual making roughly 17,000 or less — or a family of four making roughly twice that or less — will have the option to enroll in Medicaid, but will not be required to do so. No one will be taken from a private insurance plan should they have one they like.

Myth: The potential positive impact will not be much.

Fact: An estimated 550,000 people will have the option to get a Medicaid plan, per a study from the Oklahoma Hospital Association.

Myth: People being uninsured is not as bad in Oklahoma as in other places.

Fact: Oklahoma has the second highest rate of people being uninsured in the United States, losing only to Texas. The most recent proportion of the Oklahoma population recorded as uninsured was 14.2 percent.

Myth: People without disabilities who would be covered by the expansion will be discouraged from working.

Fact: According to the journal Health Affairs, a mere 13 percent of able-bodied adults covered by the expansion (in states that have passed the expansion) do not work, are not in school or are not seeking work. Three quarters of that 13 percent reported are not working in order to be a caregiver to a family member. The vast majority of people covered in expansions still seek out work.

While the vote on the legislation will not take place for another year, it is still important to understand what is true and what is not about what is going to be on the ballot. The fate of the proposition is uncertain now, but advocates are certainly feeling rather good about their chances at present, considering the incredible number of signatures on the petition. At least until the election, Oklahoma will remain in the minority of 14 states who have yet to pass the expansion.

Post Author: Zach Short