OKLAHOMA CITY — May 20, 2020 — Seven national organizations representing patients facing serious chronic medical conditions released the following statement in support of State Question 802, an initiative that would expand eligibility for the state’s Medicaid program to low-income Oklahomans earning less than $1,500 a month:
“As our nation contends with the COVID-19 pandemic, incurring devastating human and economic losses, our organizations remain focused on health care solutions that will protect our most vulnerable populations. Untold insecurities weigh heavily on many Oklahomans, and on June 30, voters can ease some of that worry by voting ‘yes’ on State Question 802.
“Voting ‘yes’ on State Question 802 will make health insurance through Medicaid accessible to more Oklahomans in the event they should need it – such as sudden loss of employment and, subsequently, health care benefits.
“Oklahoma has the second-highest uninsured rate in the nation, and the need will only continue to rise. In the week ending May 9, over 32,000 Oklahomans filed for unemployment because of job loss or reduced hours. Many will lose health insurance and at the month’s end fall into what’s called the Medicaid coverage gap: Their income is above Medicaid eligibility limits but too low to afford private health insurance. For those managing heart or lung conditions, undergoing cancer treatment, or living with other chronic diseases, losing coverage is unacceptable and could jeopardize their health.
“The pandemic has also intensified the stress Oklahoma’s already-struggling rural hospitals suffer. More than two-thirds of the state’s rural hospitals are operating at a loss, and at least half of the state’s hospitals are at risk of closure. As of June 2019, eight rural hospitals have closed or no longer provide inpatient services.
“It does not have to be this way. Medicaid covers routine health exams and screenings that could prevent a trip to the emergency room; it allows those facing job loss to continue managing existing health conditions; and it reduces the amount of uncompensated care provided by rural hospitals, helping them keep their doors open.
“The timetable for Oklahoma’s economy to improve is unknown as it grapples with the pandemic and the downturn in the oil and gas sector. There is no reason for Oklahomans’ health to be so uncertain.
“Voters have a remarkable opportunity June 30 to make health care available to Oklahomans who need it. State Question 802 asks Oklahomans if Medicaid should be expanded and available to those who need it when they need it. We encourage them to vote ‘yes.’”
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
American Heart Association
American Lung Association
Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
National Multiple Sclerosis Society