Starting January 1, 2014, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allows state Medicaid programs to expand coverage to all individuals with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). This means that an individual making up to $15,856 or a family of four with a household income of $32,499 would be eligible for Medicaid coverage.
If Oklahoma creates a plan to expand health care coverage to low-income working Oklahomans it will be taking advantage of a major opportunity to strengthen our workforce and businesses.
In a new OK Policy fact sheet, we provide information demonstrating how accepting health care funds to provide health insurance to low-income working Oklahomans will be an investment in our workforce and businesses.
- Investing in Oklahoma workforce – If a plan is created to accept federal dollars to provide health insurance to low-income workers, more than 140,000 Oklahomans could benefit. These are workers we interact with on a daily basis, including restaurant and fast food workers, construction workers, child and nursing care workers, and retail associates. Without a plan to extend coverage to these individuals, these industries will continue to employ large numbers of Oklahomans who don’t have access to affordable health insurance options.
- Access to a healthier workforce – By creating a plan to provide health care coverage to low-income working Oklahomans, employers will have access to a healthier workforce and employees could reap potential benefits such as –
- Fewer days off work without pay due to illness;
- A sense of financial security in not having to worry about paying for medical bills;
- Reduced emergency room usage because of real access to primary care physicians;
- Illnesses can be treated at an acute stage to avoid the possibility of it escalating to a chronic condition;
- Reduction in uncompensated cost of treating individuals without health insurance.
Realities of not creating a plan to cover the newly eligible population – If Oklahoma doesn’t come up with a plan to provide coverage to the working Oklahomans eligible for expanded Medicaid coverage, there will be a ‘coverage crater’ created, in which some 130,000 Oklahomans will be left without any assistance to access affordable health insurance.
- Employers may face penalties – Employers with 50 or more employees could face penalties if they don’t offer affordable health insurance to their employees and an employee receives subsidized premium assistance through the health insurance marketplace. Oklahoma businesses could be on the hook for providing insurance to 42,000 Oklahomans who earn between 100 percent and 138 percent of the FPL, costing these business up to $52 million dollars collectively.
- Not accepting federal health care funds is a deal that’s too good to pass up –The federal government has agreed to fund 100 percent of the expanded coverage for the first three years and then decrease spending incrementally until states are paying 10 percent of the cost by 2020. Oklahoma will have the chance to access $8.6 billion in federal tax payer funds for health care services over ten years.
Creating a plan to provide health insurance coverage to low-income working Oklahomans will be an investment in Oklahoma’s workforce and businesses. This will be a significant opportunity to improve the well-being of Oklahoma’s uninsured low-income working population and give a boost to Oklahoma businesses.