By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer
A coalition advocating for the expansion of Medicaid in Oklahoma plans to hit the road Saturday to garner support for its cause and extinguish misinformation surrounding federal health care reforms.
The Motorcade for Medicaid will depart Saturday morning from four locations within the state. A group that will be leaving from Tulsa will join other supporters when the motorcade stops at the Martin Luther King Center in Muskogee.
That group will join participants of a second motorcade departing from Oklahoma City later that afternoon in McAlester. Two other motorcades will tour southwestern Oklahoma. All four motorcades will make stops at various farmers markets, summer festivals and parks to raise awareness about the Affordable Care Act.
Ginny Webster, co-director of the Coalition for Medicaid Expansion, said federal health care reforms have been a frequent target of criticism. Much of that criticism, Webster said, is based upon misinformation pumped into the national dialogue by those with political agendas.
“Many other Americans know very little about the law, or they think that it has been repealed,” Webster said. “And because so many citizens have been deliberately misinformed about what the law will actually do, they are totally unfamiliar with the many benefits that Oklahomans have already received or that they will receive in the future as a result of the new health-care law.”
Saturday’s Motorcade for Medicaid — sponsored by proponents of what has become known as Obamacare and advocates of accepting federal funds to expand Medicaid coverage to Oklahoma’s working poor — will be used as a teaching tool. It also is designed to put pressure on Gov. Mary Fallin, who up to this point has rejected the federal plan to expand Medicaid.
Experts say expanding the state’s Medicaid program would provide health care coverage to about 180,000 Oklahomans who are ineligible for SoonerCare, the state’s Medicaid program. Oklahoma Hospital Association officials estimate Medicaid expansion would reduce the number of the state’s uninsured residents by at least 28 percent.
SoonerCare presently covers 765,065 residents — mostly children who live in low-income households and some of their parents — about 20 percent of the state’s population. A fact sheet distributed by the Oklahoma Hospital Association shows about 636,000, one of every six, Oklahomans are uninsured.
Hospital executives said expanding Medicaid is critical to the survival of rural hospitals that often treat uninsured patients, often without compensation. Critics of the federal plan complain about the estimated $89 million it would cost the state, but they ignore the $8.56 billion in federal spending that would help offset those costs.
“This is an opportunity to learn about and understand the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and cut through the misinformation the media puts out,” said Sylvia Swan, a local resident who plans to join the Motorcade for Medicaid when it arrives in Muskogee. “This will give citizens to ask the questions that need to be asked, get the real facts about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, and have some fun at the same time.”
Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
WHO: Coalition for Medicaid Expansion.
WHAT: Motorcade for Medicaid.
WHEN: 1:15 p.m. Saturday.
WHERE: Martin Luther King Center, 627 N. Third St.
CONTACT: Ginny Webster, (918) 455-6291; Sylvia Swan, (918) 687-3343.