Tuesday July 7th, 2020 5:32AM

Oklahoma voters to decide whether to expand Medicaid

By The Associated Press
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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma voters are deciding Tuesday whether to expand Medicaid to tens of thousands of low-income residents and become the first state to amend their Constitution to do so.

While an increasing number of Oklahoma voters took advantage of mail-in voting for Tuesday's primary, polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. statewide.

Idaho, Maine, Nebraska and Utah have all expanded Medicaid through ballot questions, but did so by amending state statutes, according to the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

Amending the Oklahoma Constitution will prevent the Republican-controlled Legislature, which has resisted Medicaid expansion for a decade, from tinkering with the program or rolling back coverage. Missouri voters also will decide on a constitutional amendment on Aug. 4.

State Question 802 would extend Medicaid health insurance to those earning up to 138% of the federal poverty level, which is about $17,200 for an individual or $35,500 for a family of four.

Oklahoma is one of 14 states, along with neighboring Texas and Kansas, that have not expanded Medicaid under the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act. Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt and his predecessor, Mary Fallin, both have opposed expansion, citing uncertainty about future costs for the state.

The Oklahoma Health Care Authority has projected that about 215,000 residents would qualify for a Medicaid expansion, for a total annual cost of about $1.3 billion. The estimated state share would be about $164 million. But those numbers could be considerably higher given the number of Oklahomans who have lost their jobs and work-related health insurance because of the economic shutdown amid the coronavirus pandemic.

If the proposal passes, the Legislature is expected to increase a fee that hospitals pay from 2.5% to 4%, which would generate about $134 million annually. Stitt vetoed such a measure earlier this year.

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