Medicaid Expansion Adds 120K+ Oklahomans to benefit rolls

Patrick B. McGuigan
More than 120,000 Oklahomans have been enrolled in Medicaid under terms of the expansion program that began on June 1, officials with the Oklahoma Health Care Authority said Wednesday (June 23). 
That number could reach 200,000 by month’s end.
A total of 120,354 individuals in Oklahoma have been approved for benefits through expansion since June 1. In total through last week’s report, 77,244 of those persons are female, 43,110 are males. While 70,856 are located in the state’s urban areas, 40,498 are in rural areas.

As for the ages of the new enrollees in Medicaid, 31,316 are 19 to 24 years old; 35,826 are from 25 to 34 years old; 28,508 are from age 35 to 44; and 9,583 are from age 55 to 64.

The racial make-up of the expansion population is (thus far) as follows: 4,867 people were listed as American Indian or Alaskan Native, 3,354 as Asian or Pacific Islander, 12,440 as Black or African American, and 74,073 as white. Those listing two or more races equaled 7,371, while 8,269 declined to specify.

These new enrollees will be added to the 970,574 Oklahomans who were in SoonerCare through the May 2021 reports. In all, 139,751 of those enrolled were in CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program).

The Oklahoma numbers are driven by voter approval of State Question 802, a ballot initiative narrowly approved a year ago. As summarized in the Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s report, S.Q. 802 expanded Medicaid eligibility to “adults ages 19-64 whose income is 138 percent (133 percent with a 5 percent disregard) of the federal poverty level or lower. This equates to an estimated annual income of $17,796 for an individual or $36,588 for a family of four.”

In response to a question from this reporter, OHCA communications staff said, “The state share costs for expansion will be approximately $164 million for year one.” Some advocates of Medicaid Expansion contend net costs will be lower due to savings achieved through better health outcomes, impacting the budget positively in that way.
The Oklahoma surge is part of a dramatic surge in Medicaid enrollment throughout the United States.
The latest information from U.S. government officials details 73 million Americans in Medicaid, and 6.8 million children in CHIP. In all, approximately one of every four Americans are now covered under Medicaid or CHIP.
Yet another 63 million Americans presently derive their health insurance coverage through traditional Medicare. Of the 143+ million Americans insured through these programs, 37 million are children.

Advocates of expanded government-run and taxpayer-financed health insurance are applauding the trend.

“There’s no question that one of the best ways to improve health outcomes is to reduce the number of uninsured. Providing Medicaid coverage to at least 200,000 working, low-income adults in our state will allow earlier access to basic primary care, avoid delays in care, and provide better management of chronic conditions. Multiple studies have shown that one of the great- est determinants of health is access to health care. We are excited to see our state finally expand Medicaid coverage to these individuals and encourage people to get enrolled,” said Patti Davis, president of Oklahoma Hospital Association.

Jonathan Small, president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs (OCPA), a critic of Medicaid expansion, told this reporter: “No one should be surprised that enrollment would be soaring in a ‘free’ welfare program that has limited accountability and that hasn’t been found to make significant improvements in health outcomes for participants. The Oregon studies of health outcomes in states that have expanded Medicaid have shown little correlation, if any–and in a couple of states a negative correlation – between expanding health programs like Medicaid and the actual health outcomes for citizens.

“Furthermore, a comprehensive study by the Goldwater Institute shows that expanding Medicaid allows hospitals to increase their claimed amount of uncompensated care, which therefore allows them to continue to raise prices on non-Medicaid payers,” Small said.

NOTE: This news report first appeared in The Southwest Ledger Southwest Ledger, 7602 US Highway 277, Elgin, OK 73538, (580) 350-1111. It is reposted here with permission.