During the past 30 days, thousands of Oklahomans have spoken out against Gov. Stitt’s health care proposal, which would implement health care barriers that could keep more than 200,000 Oklahomans from being able to see a doctor or even fill a prescription.
The Oklahoma Health Care Authority on March 16 released Gov. Stitt’s health care proposal, which includes coverage barriers such as premiums and work requirements. The proposal also is built on a block grant funding model that would expose Oklahoma to greater long-term financial risks when compared with a straightforward Medicaid expansion. State Question 802, which Gov. Stitt has not yet placed on the ballot, calls for straightforward Medicaid expansion and would include state Constitutional protections.
The release of the governor’s plan put in motion a 30-day comment period that ended April 15. To help facilitate public comments on the proposal, the Oklahoma Policy Institute published the CoverOK.org website to gather comments and then submit them to OHCA.
The CoverOK site received more than 2,700 comments during the past 30 days from Oklahomans concerned about the proposal and its restrictions. This is nearly twice the number of comments OK Policy gathered during a similar Medicaid comment campaign in 2018. For comparison, the 2018 comment period was twice as long at 60 days compared to the 30-day comment period for the current proposal. The OHCA has not released the number of comments that were received overall during this 30-day comment period.
Comments expressed by Oklahomans during OK Policy’s CoverOK campaign included:
- “At a time when a public health crisis makes it eminently clear how important it is to protect the most vulnerable members of our community, it’s even more egregious to see efforts to reduce access to health care. We need more coverage, not less. It’s that simple.”
- From a college professor: “Every semester, I hear from students who can’t complete their studies because of their concern for a family member’s health. Because the state legislature has systematically underfunded healthcare, millions of Oklahomans are forced to live from crisis to crisis, rather than securing preventative medicine and peace of mind.”
- “Work requirements and other barriers don’t increase the workforce or make better-suited, better-paying jobs appear. They simply make it easier to deny health coverage to the people who need it most.”
OK Policy Executive Director Ahniwake Rose said the CoverOK response rate clearly demonstrates that Oklahomans are outraged that Gov. Stitt and OHCA moved forward with a restrictive health care proposal, especially during the middle of a global pandemic.
“Oklahomans should not be forced to fight for health care protections at the same time as many are fighting for their survival during a pandemic. I think the level of comments speaks volumes about the importance of this issue to everyday Oklahomans,” Rose said. “In the meantime, we remain concerned that the governor appears to be subverting the will of Oklahoma voters, who have clearly — and in record numbers — asked for SQ 802 to be placed on the ballot.”
In its 13-page public comment, OK Policy noted that the governor’s health care proposal called out numerous reasons the proposal represents bad policy that needlessly keeps Oklahomans from getting coverage. OK Policy also raised questions about the proposal’s crucial lack of detail about how the program would be financed, the costs for updating existing OHCA infrastructure to manage the new program, and how OHCA would be able to fulfill its outreach and education requirements.
In addition, OK Policy called out the public hearings as flawed, unrepresentative and lacking transparency as the OHCA were required to quickly pivot to online virtual public hearings during the pandemic.
According to the OHCA timelines, the next steps for the proposal are that OHCA will review and respond to the comments, then submit the proposal to the federal Medicaid administrators later this month. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services will then review the proposal with an expected federal comment period, as well.