Backers of a petition that would let voters decide whether to expand the state's Medicaid program and address Oklahoma's growing health crisis have gathered nearly 90 percent of the 178,000 signatures they need to get State Question 802 on the ballot.
They have almost a month to get the remainder of the signatures, which means there is a pretty good chance their efforts will be successful. This is a fairly clear signal that Oklahoma voters were tired of waiting for Oklahoma's elected leaders, who have been playing politics with their health care for the past several years.
The reason why Oklahoma has passed up billions in federal health care dollars and allowed an estimated 200,000 of the state's low-income adults go without adequate access to care is because of their disdain for the Affordable Care Act. The signature bill signed into law by President Barack Obama after being passed by a Democratic Congress was a popular target for years by Republicans who vowed to oppose anything the two-term president supported.
After wresting control of Congress and the White House they failed to follow through on their promise to repeal and replace because Americans liked what the Affordable Care Act accomplished. Those in states that accepted the additional Medicaid funds reaped even more benefits, while states where expansion was rejected saw rural hospitals close and health outcomes stagnate.
Only after voters organized a ballot initiative did legislators and those in the executive branch get serious about offering up alternatives. They have been scrambling, talking about all the good ideas they refuse to share publicly while opposition groups try to mislead or confuse voters about the issue.
Amber England, a spokeswoman for Yes on 802 said the petition drive has been successful because "people get it — it's personal." That's something the state's elected leaders failed to grasp back then, and it's unlikely they can — or really want to — catch up now.
We get it, too. Registered voters owe it to themselves to find a petition and sign it — at the very least SQ 802 should be placed on the ballot and presented for a vote. Because voters know what they would get with SQ 802, which is more than what they can get from those who say they plan to offer some alternative, SQ 802 also deserves voters' support.