New campaign seeks to put Medicaid expansion up for a vote

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A statewide coalition has launched a campaign to put the question of whether to expand Medicaid coverage to thousands of uninsured Oklahoma residents before voters.

A group of medical professionals, patients, business leaders, nonprofits and health care advocates launched the Oklahomans Decide Healthcare campaign on Wednesday, The Oklahoman reported.

"We're normal, everyday Oklahomans that care about this issue and we're growing every day," said spokeswoman Amber England.

England said the group supports a plan for Oklahoma to obtain about $1 billion annually in federal dollars to expand the state's Medicaid program to as many as 200,000 residents.

Expanding Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act would extend health insurance to those earning up to 133% of the federal poverty level, which is about $33,000 for a family of four. Oklahoma would join 36 other states that have expanded Medicaid.

Roughly 90% of the state's Medicaid expansion would be funded with federal money, but Republican leaders have expressed concern that Oklahoma's share would cost too much.

The coalition will need to collect nearly 178,000 voter signatures to put the issue on the November 2020 ballot.

England refused to disclose the coalition's donors, but said the group would do so when a ballot initiative clears all hurdles and the governor sets an election date.

A conservative think tank is already challenging an initiative petition to put Medicaid expansion up for a vote. The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs argues that the ballot proposal unconstitutionally cedes state power to the federal government.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court will hear arguments on the issue next week.

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Information from: The Oklahoman, http://www.newsok.com