State Question 802, which would expand Medicaid to more people across the state, will appear on the Oklahoma primary ballot this year.
The state question would provide healthcare to Oklahomans whose employers don’t provide insurance, as well as those who earn less than 133 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.
Oklahomans Decide Healthcare leads the charge of residents who are hoping to expand health coverage in this year’s election. According to their website, the organization says in addition to helping over 200,000 Oklahomans who can’t afford medical coverage, the acceptance of the state question would bring back $1 billion from Washington, D.C. to Oklahoma each year to aid the economy.
“We're very hopeful that we've run a strong campaign and that momentum is on our side but we're taking nothing for granted, and so that's why we're campaigning until the very last possible second,” said Amber England, campaign manager for Oklahomans Decide Healthcare. “It's important that voters know going into election day that we are really on the cusp of being able to do something so impactful for generations to come in this state — to lower the uninsured rate in Oklahoma to help our communities get stronger and financially more sound.”
In addition to a large tax return and medical provisions for more impoverished Oklahomans, England said the state question is also imperative to saving rural hospitals vital to the safety and well-being of small Oklahoma towns.
“For rural Oklahoma this is a matter, oftentimes, of life and death,” England said, “because if you are living in a community, and your hospital closes down, and you're having a medical emergency, those extra minutes mean time and when you're having a heart attack, it could be a matter of life and death. And so I think that's why we've seen such momentum on our side ... (because) this issue is so very personal to everyone. They understand this issue very well. They're living it every single day.”
Those voting yes on State Question 802 have not been without opposition, though. The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs released a petition May 9 opposing the state question, saying the question was not legal because federal law only permits Medicaid expansion for citizens earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
The council tried to stop Oklahomans Decide Healthcare from collecting the signatures needed to put the state question on this year’s ballot before its petition was struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court, England said.
With the petition issue resolved, England and her organization said they are going the extra mile to make sure their efforts are rewarded on election night.
“We're working every day, we’re knocking doors right now and we’re talking to voters on the phone,” England said. “We're really honored to be a part of this campaign because it really has been a true grassroots campaign from day one, and hopefully we get to deliver a victory for the people of Oklahoma on election night.”