Argument made for added Medicaid (Muskogee Phoenix)

By D.E. Smoot, Muskogee Phoenix

Analysts with the Oklahoma Policy Institute contend the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act would benefit Oklahoma businesses and uninsured workers.

An analysis of the 2011 American Community Survey shows there are 143,150 uninsured low-income workers in Oklahoma. About half of those residents work in sectors where average earnings fall within the range that would make them eligible for expanded Medicaid coverage.

Under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid coverage would be available to those whose household income is less than 133 percent of the federal poverty rate. A family of four with an annual income of $32,499 would be eligible for expanded Medicaid coverage.

“It’s apparent that businesses within the service sector would see the greatest benefit from expanding health care coverage to working individuals with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level,” a fact sheet published by the Oklahoma Policy Institute states.

Analysts for the Tulsa think tank state those benefits would include fewer days off work without pay because of illness for business owners and a sense of financial security for workers. Other benefits, according to the fact sheet, would include the reduced use of hospital emergency rooms as primary care providers and a reduction in uncompensated costs associated with the treatment of the uninsured.

“There are so many people in Oklahoma who work but still fall between the cracks,” said Vicki S. Schaff, chief operating officer for Epic Medical Center in Eufaula. “They either can’t afford insurance, or the premiums and co-pays are so high they don’t get the primary care they need.”

Oklahoma Policy Institute analysts argue expanding Medicaid coverage to Oklahoma workers would be “a major opportunity to strengthen our workforce and businesses.”

Gov. Mary Fallin’s decision to reject Medicaid expansion, analysts contend, could put Oklahoma businesses “on the hook for providing health insurance to about 42,000 Oklahomans who earn between 100 percent and 133 percent of the federal poverty level.” Institute analysts estimate that collectively could cost those businesses up to $52 million a year.

“Creating a plan to provide health insurance coverage to low-income working Oklahomans will be an investment in Oklahoma’s workforce and businesses,” Oklahoma Policy Institute analysts conclude. “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.”


Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.