Health Care

The facts on Medicaid expansion

June 4, 2020

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.