Oklahoma is inching closer to expanding Medicaid coverage to tens of thousands of residents under a plan to be submitted to the federal government.

The move by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt comes as supporters of Medicaid expansion forge ahead with a campaign to put a ballot measure before Oklahoma voters in November. Stitt’s plan is being submitted to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which would have to grant Oklahoma a waiver.

The Oklahoma effort to become the 37th state to expand Medicaid is just the latest momentum in Republican-leaning states where lawmakers and governors have historically blocked efforts to expand health insurance coverage to more poor Americans under the Affordable Care Act in the past. 

Even as Oklahoma’s governor proposes his plan, which could include Medicaid work requirements and other potential eligibility rules for the state’s poor, supporters of a ballot measure are forging ahead to expand coverage as well.

“What we’re seeing in Oklahoma is a grassroots campaign that has now forced the governor’s hand,” Jonathan Schleifer, executive director of The Fairness Project, which has helped states like Oklahoma with ballot measures to win Medicaid expansion when legislatures or governors have balked. “Nearly 200,000 people are about to get health care through Medicaid expansion, and Oklahomans have no intention of letting the governor take that coverage away with a bait and switch scheme later this year.”

The Fairness Project has been working with supporters of Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma and Missouri in hopes those states will follow the lead of successful 2018 ballot initiatives in Nebraska, Idaho and Utah. Those states, like Maine in 2017, bypassed Republican governors and legislatures to expand Medicaid by public referendum.

The Fairness Project said the “Yes on 802” effort would take Stitt’s effort further and “put Medicaid expansion into the state’s constitution.”

Oklahoma has been one of 14 remaining holdout states that have already missed out on generous federal funding of the Medicaid expansion. From 2014 through 2016, the ACA’s Medicaid expansion population was funded 100% with federal dollars. The federal government still picks up 90% or more of Medicaid expansion through 2020. It’s a better deal than before the ACA, when Medicaid programs were funded via a much less generous split between state and federal tax dollars.

Oklahoma’s 10% contribution to Medicaid expansion would cost the state “around $150 million annually,” The Oklahoman reported Friday.

“If the governor unilaterally expands Medicaid, we will have to pay for it,” state Sen. Greg McCortney, a Republican told The Oklahoman. “Constitutionally, we’re required to vote on a balanced budget, so if we have expanded Medicaid, we will have to pay.”

Such expansion has been a boon to doctors, hospitals and health insurers like Anthem, Centene, UnitedHealth Group and CVS Health’s Aetna health insurance unit given these private insurers generally administer most Medicaid benefits in the U.S. Expansion could bring coverage and new revenue to healthcare companies as soon as 2021, analysts say.

Go to Source

Red State Oklahoma Closer To Medicaid Expansion – Forbes