This week, the Oklahoma Supreme Court cleared the way for a new petition effort to expand Medicaid coverage to thousands of Oklahomans caught in the coverage gap: those who make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private heath insurance.
The American Heart Association has long been a supporter of Medicaid expansion, in order to reduce the number of Americans who are uninsured and increase access to healthcare. In Oklahoma, achieving expansion has long seemed like an impossibility, but over the past year attitudes towards expansion have shifted. There were several bills introduced for expansion during the 2019 legislative session, and the AHA took action with our nearly 5,000 member strong You’re The Cure network to keep consideration one of those bills, SB 605, alive in the Republican Senate caucus. While that effort was successful in that discussion on the bill was allowed to continue, no proposal ever made it to the floor for consideration.
In the meantime, the AHA joined the Cover OK coalition to support Medicaid expansion, and actively participated in events like the rally at the Capitol to support expansion. We also met with members of the legislature, key stakeholders, and other groups to examine ways we could keep Medicaid expansion legislation alive, as well as influence the policy to cover as many Oklahomans as possible.
It became apparent that no legislative proposal would be considered this year, and so the AHA has shifted attention to the initiative petition. The AHA met with some of the organizations supporting the petition, and intends to fully support the effort.
With the Oklahoma Decides Healthcare campaign officially kicking off, the AHA will be able to contribute with our nearly 5,000 member grassroots network, recognizable branding, and strong communications platforms to support the effort. The AHA intends to invest through both in-kind and actual expenses somewhere between $150,000 to $200,000 on the campaign, with that estimate potentially changing as we identify tactics and needs.