Oklahoma governor pushes Medicaid expansion to skeptical GOP
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administration submitted a proposal Friday to the federal government to expand Medicaid to Oklahoma’s poorest residents, but Republican lawmakers are balking at a plan to pay for the state’s share.
The state’s Medicaid agency, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, submitted its plan to the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that would become effective July 1.
A Medicaid expansion would extend health insurance to low-income adults who earn up to 133% of the federal poverty level, or $16,970 for an individual and $34,846 for a family of four. The Health Care Authority estimates about 220,000 Oklahomans would immediately qualify, at a total cost of about $1.24 billion annually. The federal government would cover about $1.1 billion in annual costs, with the state responsible for about $150 million each year.
Stitt wants to take advantage of a block-grant-style Medicaid expansion offered by the Trump administration that would give states more control over Medicaid in exchange for a limit on how much the feds kick in. One requirement that Stitt and other conservative policymakers want to impose would make recipients pay premiums and either work or volunteer in the community.
Stitt has touted his plan, which he’s dubbed SoonerCare 2.0, as an alternative to a citizen-led Medicaid expansion that has qualified for a public vote this year. If approved, that plan would put Medicaid expansion in the Oklahoma Constitution to prevent lawmakers from tinkering with it.
But GOP lawmakers, who have argued for years against expanding Medicaid, are against Stitt’s plan to pay for the state’s share by increasing a fee that hospitals pay called the Supplemental Hospital Offset Payment Program, or SHOPP.
Sen. Ron Sharp, a Republican from Seminole who is up for re-election this year, said it’s difficult for Republicans to support a fee hike to pay for a Medicaid expansion, especially when they’re trying to court conservative voters.
“In a Republican primary, I’d be placing my name on a Medicaid expansion, which the conservative faction of the Republican Party has been adamantly against for years,” Sharp said. “I’ve got two Republican opponents already, and no telling how many others will jump in if they start to smell blood.”