Oklahoma becomes 5th state where voters overrule GOP to expand Medicaid


For a decade, Republican lawmakers in Oklahoma refused to expand Medicaid coverage to more Oklahomans. Then voters stepped in.

Voters in Oklahoma on Tuesday voted to expand Medicaid coverage to include more low-income residents, overruling the GOP-controlled legislature and the governor, who had refused to broaden the program.

The measure voters approved amends the state's Constitution in an effort to block the Republican legislature from rolling back the expansion.

Oklahoma is now the fifth GOP-run state in which voters have  expanded Medicaid coverage by ballot measure.

Maine expanded coverage in 2017 after Republican Gov. Paul LePage stood as a constant road block to providing more low-income Mainers with health care. Voters in Idaho, Utah, and Nebraska — all Republican-run states — also expanded Medicaid via ballot measure.

A sixth Republican-controlled state, Missouri, is set to vote on Medicaid expansion in August.

Just 13 states have not expanded Medicaid, an option given to the states under the Affordable Care Act enacted in 2010.

Known as Obamacare, the act gives states the option to expand Medicaid to residents whose income falls below 138% of the federal poverty level. In 2020, the federal poverty level for a family of four is calculated at $26,200. Under Medicaid expansion, in 2020 families of four that earn $36,156 a year qualify for coverage.

Oklahoma's Medicaid expansion comes as Donald Trump has urged the Supreme Court to invalidate Obamacare.

If the Supreme Court sides with Trump, tens of millions of people who receive health insurance through the federal exchange, including the more than 15.5 million who receive coverage through Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, will lose coverage, according to data published by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.