Politics

Oklahoma Narrowly Passes Medicaid Expansion Amid Pandemic

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Andrew Trunsky Political Reporter
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Oklahoma voters narrowly approved a wide-ranging Medicaid expansion, extending the service to thousands of low-income adults amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The ballot measure passed with 50.5% support, bucking Oklahoma Republicans that had sought to reign in the expensive program, Politico reported.

Despite Oklahoma’s conservative lean, supporters of the expansion acknowledged that the coronavirus likely helped the amendment pass. Confirmed cases in the state have doubled in the past month, including nearly 600 new cases yesterday, according to a Johns Hopkins University database. (RELATED: Tulsa County Reports Highest New Number Of Coronavirus Cases In A Day)

The amendment is a lifeline for many in Oklahoma, where unemployment has hit 13% and a large percentage of the population remains uninsured. Approximately 200,000 people will be eligible under the Medicaid expansion, The Hill reported.

The expansion is certain to help low-income families across the state, especially in metro areas that have been hit especially hard by the virus, according to Dr. Bruce Dart, the executive director of the Tulsa Health Department.

“Access to health care is critical, and the Tulsa Health Department applauds any effort to increase access to health care coverage. Expanded Medicaid will increase coverage to Tulsa County families, which will in turn help improve health outcomes for our community,” Dart told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Tulsa has more cases than any county in Oklahoma, according to the New York Times.

TULSA, OKLAHOMA – JUNE 20: Mike Brooks sits in the upper seats ahead of a campaign rally for U.S. President Donald Trump at the BOK Center, June 20, 2020 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Trump is holding his first political rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic at the BOK Center on Saturday while infection rates in the state of Oklahoma continue to rise. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The amendment states that Oklahoma must formally begin the process of expanding Medicaid within 90 days, and that the expansion must be completed by July 1, 2021.

While the amendment likely bars Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt from implementing work requirements or other limitations, questions about the legality of instituting a capped lump sum, or a block grant, remain, Politico notes.

Though Republicans and the Trump administration are likely to push for one, Democrats will likely object, increasing the chances that the specifics of the expansion are at least partially decided by the courts.

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