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Oklahoma’s uninsured rate is among the highest in the US. This means that many of our friends and neighbors can’t see a doctor, get treatment for a chronic illness, or even fill a prescription. It doesn’t have to be this way. If Oklahoma expands access to coverage, more than 100,000 uninsured Oklahomans could get the health care they need.
Without affordable health care, uninsured Oklahomans go without lifesaving preventive treatments, struggle to see a doctor and fill prescriptions, and are largely excluded from help for substance abuse and mental health disorders.
Lawmakers have the power to join 37 other states in accepting federal funds to increase access to health coverage. The federal government will pay $9 of every $10 to expand access to care. Overall, this is likely to save the state money because the federal government will take on the cost of some services that are currently only paid for by the state.
Other states’ experiences show the power of increasing access to care: the uninsured rate drops, more people get needed screenings and treatment, health outcomes improve, and people even find it easier to get and keep a job. Increasing coverage would also bolster rural hospitals and other important care providers by reducing uncompensated care and helping Oklahomans get treatment before health issues become more serious and expensive.
Some states have chosen to expand their Medicaid programs, but others, such as Arkansas, have used federal dollars to pay for private coverage. Oklahoma can choose either. Whatever the state does, it should ensure that enrollees aren’t set up to fail by an overly complicated system that puts too many dollars towards administration instead of patient care
Oklahoma has the freedom to design an expansion plan that makes sense for us. That system should be consumer-focused and efficient, to ensure the best use of taxpayer dollars.
The #CoverOK Campaign to Expand Coverage is organized by Oklahoma Policy Institute and Together Oklahoma.