Make Less Than $9500 Per Year? Oklahoma Will Help You By Axing Your Medicaid (Wonkette)

By Doktor Zoom

Republicans in Oklahoma’s House of Representatives are apparently sick and tired of Florida and Maine being the shittiest to their poor people. So by an overwhelming majority, the Oklahoma House voted last week to kick 111,000 single parents off “Soonercare,” the state’s homegrown version of Medicaid. Only the parents would lose benefits; their kids would still be covered by Medicaid under CHIP. So it would be entirely unfair for liberals to cry about kids being hurt by this.

Oklahoma has a budget crisis, you see, resulting from, among other problems, the downturn in oil revenues, leaving the state budget short by about $900 million this year. So at least in Oklahoma, it turns out Fox News was partly right a couple years back when it fretted low gas prices might be bad for the economy. At least if your state’s economy is overly dependent on fossil fuels, and you spent the boom years cutting taxes (to reward job creators). And now Oklahoma can’t possibly reconsider any of those tax cuts, because all the job creators will leave. Thanks a lot, Obama!

The bill, HB 2665, would “eliminate Medicaid eligibility for any non-pregnant able-bodied adult” under the age of 65, no matter how low their income (current recipients earn less than $9500 annually). If they want health insurance, they’ll just have to go and get a job, in Oklahoma’s booming economy, which should be goosed back into prosperity any minute now by all those tax credits that attracted the jobs that vanished with the bust in oil prices. Hush, it makes sense to Republicans.

Now, to actually do this, the state would have to request a waiver from the federal government, which is highly unlikely to be approved. Still, sponsor Doug Cox (R-Duh!) thinks it’s an unfortunate but necessary step toward closing the budget gap, even though it would take away health insurance from 111,000 Oklahomans, about 77,000 of whom are women. It would save Oklahoma about $130 million a year, although the state would also lose another $203 million in matching federal funds. If the waiver is denied, and the state insists on cutting off the benefits anyway, Oklahoma could lose all of its federal Medicaid funding, to the tune of $3 billion a year.

Oh, sure, Oklahoma could, if it wanted, actually cover all of these people — and 150,000 more — if it accepted the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare, a step the nonpartisan Oklahoma Policy Institute estimates would in the long run actually save the state money. Too bad Gov. Mary Fallin decided against Medicaid expansion, because Obamacare and therefore socialist and unaffordable.

Medicaid expansion would allow some costs currently paid by the state to be shifted to the federal government and would boost the state’s economy:

A healthier workforce, increased consumer demand, and the infusion of federal funds together drive job creation and grow the whole economy.

The group also notes that a study commissioned by the governor estimated that “by 2023, Medicaid expansion would create between 12,000 and 15,000 jobs in Oklahoma, with a total economic impact of $14.2 and $17.9 billion.”

Instead, the fiscal geniuses in Oklahoma’s legislature would rather say goodbye to over $200 million in federal funds, a revenue loss Democratic legislators warn will almost certainly force some hospitals to close, especially when those hospitals will have to cope with higher numbers of uninsured poor people showing up in emergency rooms. Maybe the resulting unemployed hospital workers can start small businesses and save the economy that way.

Even with the budget crisis, the legislature doesn’t appear to be giving any thought to modifying a 2014 income tax cut law, the latest phase of which went into effect in January. Repealing that .25 percent cut alone would restore $147 million in state revenue for the current fiscal year, far more than the “savings” from cutting Medicaid, and without putting any hospitals out of business. But heaven knows you can’t go “raising” taxes, because taxes always hurt growth. Incidentally, that 2014 law was supposed to preventautomatic tax cuts in years when there was a revenue failure, but thanks to an overly optimistic revenue projection last year, the tax cut kicked in anyway. Oops, can’t do anything about it now, guess the poors will have to pray to the Good Lord for help.


HB 2665 passed 65 to 34, with four Republicans joining all 30 Democrats in the House to oppose it. It will be taken up by the Senate later in March; we haven’t seen any comment on the legislation from Gov. Fallin yet, but she does seem to jump at any chance to be mean-spirited. Remember, rather than allow spousal benefits for gay-married Oklahoma National Guard members, Fallin instead eliminated all spousal benefits for Guard members. We wouldn’t put it past her to kick some poor people off health insurance too, since the state is hurting and everybody has to do their share (Except of course the job creators. Tax them even the slightest, and they’ll bruise, the poor things). Best to kick those lazy poors hard to teach them the importance of hard work.

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