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Editorial: Oklahoma voters pull state kicking and screaming into Medicaid expansion
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Editorial: Oklahoma voters pull state kicking and screaming into Medicaid expansion

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In the first few days of enrollment, more than 50,000 Oklahomans applied for expanded Medicaid, which is largely funded by the federal Affordable Care Act.

Oklahoma’s move to expanded Medicaid begins July 1.

It’s taken too long to get to this point, but it deserves celebrating now that we’re so nearly there.

In the first few days of enrollment, nearly 100,000 Oklahomans applied and were approved for the entitlement program that is largely funded by the federal Affordable Care Act.

That will mean a healthier state in the future. Oklahomans who have not had access to primary care physicians will now be able to get medical assistance in dealing with chronic health problems, including obesity, tobacco use and lack of exercise.

That means treatable chronic problems will be less likely to become very expensive acute ones, and will be addressed in doctor’s offices instead of emergency rooms.

It will also have a healthy economic impact on the state. More than $1 billion a year in federal funding should flow to the state, helping strengthen the state’s tenuous rural health care system. The state also ends up with a stronger workforce.

Medicaid expansion makes Oklahoma healthier and wealthier.

Some 200,000 U.S. citizens living in Oklahoma are financially eligible for Medicaid under the constitutional mandate approved by state voters last year.

Working-age Oklahomans who earn up to 138% of the federal poverty level are eligible, That’s $17,796 for an individual or $36,588 for a family of four.

It took too long for the state to open the door to expanded Medicaid. The state’s elected leadership refused federal funding for the program under the false premise that the state couldn’t depend on Congress to fund the program. We long suspected that the real issue wasn’t about money but politics, a refusal to participate in Obamacare because of the name pinned to it by its opponents. That’s a self-destructive act of partisanship and defies the good of the people.

It meant that Oklahomans paid for expanded Medicaid in other states but weren’t allowed to receive its benefits. The state ended up with the second highest rate of uninsured adults in the nation, more than 16%.

We’re glad to see eligible Oklahomans are embracing Medicaid expansion, and hope more will do so.

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