Lawmakers who assembled this past week during the inaugural meeting of the bipartisan, bicameral Healthcare Working Group formed with the stated goal to develop ways to increase access to health care in Oklahoma revealed why that probably won't happen.
It might have been an inadvertent slip of the tongue as they attempted to carefully craft a message to counter the efforts of those trying to get State Question 802 on the 2020 ballot. The ballot initiative, which requires the signatures of nearly 178,000 voters, would expand Medicaid coverage in Oklahoma to an additional 196,000 low-income uninsured adults and bring in federal funding.
The co-chairmen of the working group hit the right notes with their message, stating the overall goal "is to create a healthy Oklahoma," which ranks 47th in the nation right now because of public policies and lifestyle choices. In doing that, they "improve access" and "make it more affordable."
Those are laudable goals alright, but the co-chairmen went on to say there likely will be no action taken by the Legislature in the near future. The immediate goal it seems is to gather as much information as possible and then figure out what they need to do next.
Well, that train has left the station — nearly a decade has passed since Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. If lawmakers wanted to pursue an alternative they should have been gathering information and assembling a plan years ago. The assembly of this working group now appears to be a frantic effort to derail efforts to get the signatures needed to put SQ 802 on the ballot.
The Oklahomans Decide Health Care campaign launched in June in response to lawmakers' failure to respond to the will of their constituents. Petitioners need nearly 178,000 signatures before 5 p.m. Oct. 28 in order get SQ 802 on the ballot.
There are many Oklahomans who work for employers who don't offer health insurance or work part time and are ineligible for plans that are offered. There are many more who are ineligible for SoonerCare and don't qualify for subsidies offered for insurance plans offered through the ACA marketplace.
Lawmakers who have blocked Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma have kept more than a billion dollars of our tax dollars from coming back home from Washington every year. That money could have kept hospitals from closing and created jobs, boosted our economy, but it went to 36 other states that expanded Medicaid.
SQ 802 needs to be on the ballot in Oklahoma. We can no longer wait on Oklahoma lawmakers — those who are at the Capitol are dragging their feet because they are ideologically opposed to expansion. Support Oklahoma Decides Healthcare, find a petition and sign it — get SQ 802 on the ballot.
Don't get hoodwinked by this working group.
“We’re really excited to get started,” said Amber England, spokeswoman for the Oklahomans Decide Health Care campaign. “Since we launched the campaign in mid-June and with the Supreme Court decision, we have had tons of people across the state reaching out and wanting to volunteer on the campaign. That’s an indication of how much Oklahomans want to decide this issue.”