Oklahoma is on the Verge of Improved Health Outcomes: A Commentary
Published: March 20th, 2021
Now in my second week of quarantine after my COVID-19 diagnosis, I have had time to dwell on my health, well-being, and things which I have taken for granted.
Over the past year, I have tried to eat healthier, walk more, spend more time outdoors tending to a vegetable garden, and visit with a mental health counselor when stress levels get too high.
I am one of the lucky Oklahomans who can count on health insurance to cover a large portion of the billing that comes from illness and preventative care. There are far too many out there who are not as fortunate, but that is about to change.
With the passage of Medicaid expansion, we will see around 200,000 additional Oklahoma adults qualify for coverage starting in July. Currently, individuals making $17,131, a couple earning $23,169, a household of three earning $29,207, and a family of four with a household income of $35,245 qualify for Medicaid assistance.
This expansion will soon provide coverage for individuals making up to $16,970 with other adjusted levels for household size up to $34,846 for a family of four.
As we get closer to the starting period for this coverage, OICA will increase awareness for those who qualify for Medicaid, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and other benefits. This will benefit Oklahomans who might not be aware of their ability to receive assistance. You can go to https://www.okdhslive.org/ to see if you qualify.
OICA has also received a grant to analyze these websites and provide suggestions to improve the content and outreach.
I will keep you posted about this effort in future columns.
The Commonwealth Fund is a foundation working to improve health care systems across the nation, particularly for the most vulnerable. They have Oklahoma ranked 50th out of the states and the District of Columbia, falling seven spots since the last report.
With improvements like Medicaid expansion, Oklahoma is expected to see more adults and children insured.
This means fewer adults will skip needed care because of its cost, meaning more adults receiving age- and gender-appropriate cancer screenings, more children (ages 19–35 months) receiving all recommended vaccines, and fewer premature deaths (before age 75) occurring from causes that are potentially treatable or preventable with timely and appropriate care.
Also, fewer employer-insured adults and Medicare beneficiaries alike will seek care in emergency rooms for non-emerging or primary-care-treatable conditions, saving hospitals significant funds.
Many are concerned that there is widespread abuse in these systems, but government accountability has been implemented to ensure regular checks on qualification, with most seeing monthly reviews. The administration of Governor Kevin Stitt has implemented several quality controls to provide accountability over these programs.
When you add in support for nutritional food through SNAP and school lunch programs, Oklahoma is likely to improve in categories for health and well-being. OICA will seek collaborative partners from across the state to help promote this information. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (405) 236-5437 if you would like to help.
Thank you to those who have reached out to check on my health, dropped off meals when I was not feeling well, and to the OICA staff who carried on while I was sick. It certainly made me appreciate those in my life. Please continue to mask up and be safe.