By LARISSA COPELAND
Canadian County Democrats last week heard from two speakers regarding an initiative petition to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma.
The petition drive is part of a push to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot for voters in 2020, according to CCD chair Jody Harlan. The expansion, she said, would help Oklahomans – both individuals and families – who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid in its current form, but not enough to afford coverage on the health insurance exchange. For example, she said, individuals would qualify who make less than $17,000 per year or families of three making less than $29,000.
To be put on the ballot in 2020, the petition must receive 178,000 signatures, Harlan said. And it’s not the first of its kind.
“Thirty-six states have expanded their Medicaid to take in people in (the income) gap,” Harlan said. “Many people who fall under the salary range (not currently accepted by Medicaid) spend every dollar on food and rent and basic expenses. There’s a tendency for people to put off seeking healthcare until it’s an emergency.”
By introducing a larger population into the Medicaid pool – people who are otherwise healthy but whose income is not enough to cover health insurance – Harlan said it would lower the cost-per-case for Medicaid as a whole, while also qualifying for an increase in federal reimbursement.
“When states do (agree to Medicaid expansion), they qualify for a nine-to-one federal match,” Harland said.
She explained the match as a state contributing $1 and being reimbursed $9 by the federal government for funds the state paid.
“The state would be recovering federal dollars at a nine-to-one rate,” she said.
Saché Primeaux-Shaw was the first to present information to attendees. Primeaux-Shaw, who works with Oklahomans Decide Healthcare and is also chair of Young Democrats of Oklahoma, provided training during the meeting on making sure petitions are valid.
“We want to be sure that petitions are handled correctly,” Harlan said.
At the meeting, CCD members provided Primeaux-Shaw with 16 petitions, each with 20 names. Harlan said she planned to deliver more Monday.
“She handed out more petitions, and talked to the group about the importance of reaching out in the community to get more names and turn petitions in as soon as they’re complete and notarized,” Harlan said.
Primeaux-Shaw estimated that the Medicaid expansion would provide insurance to nearly 200,000 Oklahomans and bring more than a billion federal dollars back to the state each year.
After Primeaux-Shaw provided information on the formal side of ballot collecting, Tom Payton, chair of the Okmulgee County Democrats, took to the podium. He spoke to attendees about broaching the subject of the expansion with others, inspiring a discussion on how to educate as many people as possible about the petition and possible vote in 2020.
Payton also discussed the benefits Medicaid expansion would bring to the state, noting that the influx of federal tax dollars would create thousands of jobs and boost the workforce and economy.
While this meeting was geared toward Canadian County Democrats, Harlan stressed the importance of not treating the petition like a strictly-Democrat issue.
“Other people can get involved who aren’t Democrats,” Harlan said. “It’s a broader issue than that. Really, it’s just an expansion of subsidies for healthcare to a group caught without it because of its cost.”
For more information about the proposed expansion or the petition to have it be placed on the 2020 ballot, contact Harlan at 326-3600 or at [email protected]