This Medicaid story was published before Oklahoma voters expanded Medicaid though State Question 802. To read more recent Medicaid stories from Oklahomans across the state, visit OKPolicy.org/Medicaid-Stories. Do you or someone you know have a health care story you would like to share? Visit OKPolicy.org/MyStory and tell us about it.
Daniel Pham, medical student at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, wants to practice medicine in a system that meets the needs of all Oklahomans, especially its most vulnerable. That’s why he supports Medicaid expansion, which would help meet the health needs of more than 200,000 uninsured Oklahomans.
“People need medication, but unfortunately many times they can’t afford them. So they often go to free or low-cost clinics usually to get the medications they need to live.”
“We really needed Medicaid expansion a long time ago,” the Oklahoma City resident said. “We needed it before I started med school. The fact that we have this opportunity to vote on (State Question 802) collectively is really, really important.”
Pham said people tend to think health care providers are solely responsible for making or influencing health care issues.
“But by just being a registered voter, this is your chance to play a role as well,” he said.
Through his medical school experiences, Daniel has seen the potential benefits of Medicaid expansion firsthand. He said Oklahomans tend to have multiple medical conditions at once, such as diabetes and hypertension.
“We hear and see stories of patients not getting the care they need because they’re uninsured. Or they do have insurance, but they can’t afford the premiums or deductibles,” he said. “People need medication, but unfortunately many times they can’t afford them. So they often go to free or low-cost clinics usually to get the medications they need to live.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, medical students had opportunities to volunteer at those clinics to practice the skills they learned in school. With more and more people relying on clinics, these care facilities can quickly get overwhelmed due to limited resources.
“These are real people. They have real experiences. They have struggles with getting access to health care,” he said. “These clinics do a lot of work, and they’re very appreciated. But there’s also a lot of disparities between those clinics and the typical physician’s office.”
Though Daniel sees the several economic benefits of Medicaid expansion – strengthening rural hospitals, reducing uncompensated care, producing net savings – he is more concerned with the benefits it would have for everyday people, particularly those considered vulnerable populations.
“Individual health is tied to the health of the community,” he said. “If someone is not getting the health care they need because of any barriers to access – as COVID-19 has demonstrated – that affects all of us, even those with insurance.
“Medicaid expansion is the first step. There’ s more work to be done. It’s important that, if we’re able to pass this, we don’t stop. We have to be clear about where the disparities are and how we best address that.”
Do you or someone you know have a health care story you would like to share?