MEDICAID EXPANSION RALLY HEALTH CARE

People attend a rally for Medicaid and health care coverage expansion at the Capitol in Oklahoma City on April 24. Supporters of Medicaid expansion are working to circulate an initiative petition to get the issue on the ballot in Oklahoma. NATE BILLINGS/The Oklahoman file

An initiative petition seeking Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma is clear and constitutional, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.

Only hours after hearing oral arguments on an Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs challenge to the Medicaid expansion effort, the high court cleared the way for petition circulation to begin.

Major hurdles still stand ahead of Medicaid expansion supporters. Once Secretary of State Mike Rogers announces the opening of the petition-passing process, supporters will have 90 days to gather the signatures of 178,000 registered Oklahoma voters.

If they meet that test, the real contest begins: Convincing the majority of Oklahoma voters to accept a revision of the state Constitution to assure acceptance of available federal funding for Medicaid coverage for U.S. citizens living in Oklahoma and earning up to 138% of the poverty level.

Only one state — Texas — has a higher portion of its population without health care coverage than Oklahoma. The result is that we are sicker fiscally, physically and psychologically.

Remember this: Oklahomans pay the same federal taxes as people in every other state. We’re paying for Medicaid expansion, we just don’t get its benefits because the state Legislature has refused to accept it.

Gov. Kevin Stitt has promised to unveil an Oklahoma solution to the state’s health care challenges this fall. Early signs suggest his plan might share a lot of the ideas Arkansas and Indiana have used: Medicaid expansion funding run through private insurance companies with work requirements and other stipulations on the clients.

The time for state Capitol solutions to Oklahoma’s health care problems is quickly running out. If a straightforward Medicaid expansion program is on the ballot, state voters may not be willing to listen to halfway deals from the same crew that has refused to be part of the solution for years.

Voters in Nebraska, Utah and Idaho have approved Medicaid expansion initiatives after their legislators refused to take action. If the people of those conservative states were willing to bypass their lawmakers, there’s reason to believe Oklahomans might be willing to do the same.

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