Gov. Kevin Stitt trotted out his alternative plan to expand health care coverage for low-income Oklahomans this week and was bombarded by criticism launched from both conservative and liberal camps — it was well deserved.
The governor's plan appears to be little more than an attempt to fool voters who have demonstrated widespread support for State Question 802. The ballot initiative would expand the state's Medicaid program through the Affordable Care Act, something that should have been done years ago.
Stitt unveiled what he has dubbed SoonerCare 2.0 during a press conference this past week while surrounded by members of the Trump administration. The setting is telling given the fact that President Donald J. Trump, despite public pronouncements to the contrary, has done everything within the power of the executive branch to dismantle health care guarantees and protections provided by Obamacare.
SoonerCare 2.0 purportedly would charge Medicaid participants "modest premiums" and establish work requirements for plan participants by using controversial block grants, which to date have failed under judicial scrutiny. Studies have shown work requirements end up costing more to administer the program than it costs to provide the benefits.
Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, a conservative think tank, issued a statement noting "Republican plans to expand welfare aren't any better than Democrats' plans to expand welfare." House Democrats said the block grant system proposed by Stitt would result with lawmakers determining care rather than doctors, "and unnecessary red tape will limit services amongst the lowest-paid workers in Oklahoma."
Stitt's plan appears to be little more than a shell game — a desperate act to distract and hide the prize from voters who grew tired of waiting for lawmakers to do the right thing. Passage of SQ 802 would open the door to more than $1 billion in federal Medicaid expansion funds, which along with the $150 million state match would expand coverage to nearly 200,000 who are ineligible for health insurance through an employer or rebates available for ACA marketplace plans.
Stitt should abandon his charade and schedule a vote for SQ 802, which must be placed this year on a statewide ballot before voters. We believe its passage is essential to ensure health care is available to all throughout Oklahoma — it is vital for rural parts of the state.