Health Care

Kaitlyn Finley | June 4, 2020

The facts on Medicaid expansion

Kaitlyn Finley

On June 30 Oklahoma voters will decide whether or not to increase medical welfare entitlements to able-bodied adults aged 19 to 64 who make less than 138% of the federal poverty level. If State Question 802 passes, this Medicaid-expansion provision would be added as a new article to the Oklahoma Constitution. As the debate surrounding State Question 802 continues, here are some common myths and facts about Medicaid expansion.

Myth #1: The federal government, not Oklahoma taxpayers, will pay for all Medicaid expansion costs.    

Fact: Oklahoma taxpayers will share a significant portion of costs if the state expands Medicaid. If everyone eligible signed up, it could cost taxpayers up to $374 million annually. Oklahoma’s current Medicaid program already accounts for nearly a quarter of state spending.

Myth #2: Expansion will keep rural hospitals open.   

Fact: 24 rural hospitals in 16 expansion states have closed after their state expanded Medicaid.

Myth #3: Medicaid expansion will guarantee all Medicaid recipients will receive equal access to care.   

Fact: Able-bodied adults will be prioritized over the elderly, blind, low-income children, and those with disabilities because states receive higher reimbursement rates from the federal government for costs accrued by new able-bodied adults under Medicaid expansion than for traditional Medicaid recipients. 

Myth #4: Expansion will help the most vulnerable Oklahomans get health insurance coverage.

Fact: Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, SoonerCare, already gives free coverage to low-income children and caregivers, as well as to the elderly, the blind, and the disabled.

Myth #5: Expansion will create thousands of jobs for Oklahomans.  

Fact: 11 states and the District of Columbia lost nearly 7,500 hospital jobs one year after expansion. Furthermore, offering free government health care to able-bodied adults, coupled with higher than normal unemployment checks, may disincentivize many from securing gainful employment.

Myth #6: Low-income Oklahomans have no access to affordable health insurance.  

Fact: Low-income workers in Oklahoma who make up to 222% of the federal poverty level or those who are temporarily unemployed may have access to state-subsidized health insurance plans under the Insure Oklahoma program. Furthermore, 60% of those eligible for expansion in Oklahoma already have private insurance through their workplace or the individual insurance market.

Kaitlyn Finley Policy Research Fellow

Kaitlyn Finley

Policy Research Fellow

Kaitlyn Finley currently serves as a policy research fellow for OCPA with a focus on healthcare and welfare policy. Kaitlyn graduated from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Previously, she served as a summer intern at OCPA and spent time in Washington D.C. interning for the Heritage Foundation and the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

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