State Question #802 will be on the June 30th primary ballot. It is an initiative petition supported by those who want to expand Medicaid program for low income Oklahomans whose income does not exceed 133% of the federal poverty level. If passed, it would become a part of the state Constitution.
Oklahomans Decide Healthcare is the group supporting SQ #802. They contend that expansion of Medicaid will make Oklahoma families heathier and the economy stronger. The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs(OCPA) opposes SQ #802, partly because federal bureaucrats set the federal poverty level. Governor Kevin Stitt opposes SQ #802 saying, “If SQ#802 passes, our state agencies will experience deep cuts because the ballot measure offers no mechanism to pay for it.” Four observations:
First, health care funding should not become part of the state Constitution. That is the primary fishhook in SQ #802. There are those who support expansion of Medicaid who oppose having it into the state Constitution. Having it in the Constitution forces the legislature to fund it, no matter what. Bad idea.
Second, Oklahoma taxpayers can’t afford Medicaid expansion. With the downturn in the oil and gas industry, gross revenue tax revenue is down. Unemployment is up in the Sooner state and couple that with the pandemic, it is certain that other sources of revenue will be down as well. Oklahomans Decide is wrong- putting more tax burden on hurting, struggling people doesn’t strength the economy, it cripples it.
Third, the federal matching funds are not guaranteed to be there forever. OCPA says, "Oklahoma would be obligated to provide medical assistance to adults at or below 138% of the federal poverty level regardless of whether Congress continues to pay a large portion of the costs. Congress would dictate how much money actually leaves Oklahoma’s treasury.” Congress currently appropriates the federal matching funds for Medicaid, but they can quit at any time. With SQ #802 in the Oklahoma state Constitution, Oklahoma taxpayers will have to pick up the slack if Congress quit funding the expansion
Fourth, it is still unclear how many are eligible and will sign up if Medicaid is expanded. State health officials estimate that 220,000 will be eligible and 180,000 would sign up. In several states, the actual numbers who signed up for Medicaid expansion was much higher than the estimates and created funding issues.
According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), healthcare spending in the US is estimated to grow by 5.4% annually for the next eight to ten years. Projections indicate health care spending will cost an estimated $6.2 trillion by 2028. Much of that is due to the aging population in the US. Healthcare will continue to be a topic of discussion for the foreseeable future and Medicaid expansion may be necessary in Oklahoma, but SQ #802 is not the way to do it.
Vote no on SQ #802 for the following reasons: (1) Healthcare funding should not be a part of the state Constitution, (2) It is an unfunded mandate. It doesn’t increase taxes to pay for the expansion- it just mandates it, (3) Oklahoma taxpayers simply can’t afford it.