Oklahoma Vote to Expand Medicaid Shows Public Support for Access to Health Care

For Immediate Release

July 1, 2020

CONTACT: Kathy Melley, (617) 791-0708

(BOSTON, MA) - Yesterday, Oklahomans went to the polls and voted to expand Medicaid. The passage of this ballot initiative will bring affordable health coverage to 200,000 Oklahomans, over a third of whom are people of color or American Indian/Alaska Native.  Oklahoma is home to 39 federally-recognized Native American tribes and one of the largest populations of American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) in the United States, and Medicaid expansion will play a key role in strengthening the state’s tribal health system. Medicaid expansion is especially important for people of color, who are more likely to be in the Medicaid coverage gap due to systemic barriers to economic opportunity. Earning just $17,000 per year, people living in the Medicaid coverage gap are disproportionately low-wage workers, many of whom are essential workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just as these essential workers are protecting the health of their communities, policymakers should be leveraging the Medicaid program to ensure they have access to the coverage and care they need to stay healthy.  Community Catalyst is proud to work with local, state, and national organizations across the country to expand access to this critical, lifesaving program, a program that has demonstrated time and again that it remains one of the best tools policymakers have to protect people in times of need and to create more equitable access to coverage and care.

Statement of Emily Stewart, executive director of Community Catalyst, in response to the election results:

 “Last night’s ballot initiative results are a victory for the people of Oklahoma and for access to affordable health care.

 “We congratulate our partners, Oklahoma Policy Institute and The Fairness Project, who led a powerful campaign to elevate the voices of Oklahomans caught in the Medicaid coverage gap and spent months laying the groundwork for success at the ballot box. In a year when the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the vast shortcomings of our nation’s health system and the critical importance of affordable coverage and care for all, voters in Oklahoma sent a message – access to health care coverage should be expanded, not threatened or cut.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is reinforcing how essential the Medicaid program is for people who face unfair barriers to economic security, especially for people of color. This victory in Oklahoma is shining a light on the urgent need for policymakers to ensure the program can meet the growing need for affordable coverage and care. The remaining non-expansion states should expand Medicaid as quickly as possible to better ensure health coverage, increase access to COVID-19 testing and treatment, and provide economic security to millions of people living in the Medicaid coverage gap.”

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About Community Catalyst

Community Catalyst is a national, non-profit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1998 with the belief that affordable quality health care should be accessible to everyone. We work in partnership with national, state and local organizations, policymakers, and philanthropic foundations to ensure consumer interests are represented wherever important decisions about health and the health system are made: in communities, courtrooms, statehouses and on Capitol Hill. For more information, visit www.communitycatalyst.org. Follow us on Twitter @healthpolicyhub.

 

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