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News > Press Releases > Press Release

Press Release

Release Date: June 24, 2020

by Chickasaw Nation Media Relations Office

Oklahomans go to the polls Tuesday, June 30 to decide the fate of State Question 802 that, if approved, will expand Medicaid to cover low-income adults in Oklahoma.

Dr. Charles Grim, Chickasaw Nation Secretary of Health, says the measure is a much needed supplement to healthcare that will provide coverage for approximately 200,000 of the state’s most vulnerable residents.

“State Question 802 expands Medicaid to a new population – a larger population than we currently serve in Oklahoma,” Grim said. “It will cover adults from ages 18 to 65 whose incomes are at or below 133% of the federal poverty level.”

Grim said the current federal poverty level includes individuals earning $17,000 or less; a family of three earning less than $29,000; and a family of four earning less than $35,000.

“That is a fairly good income and what it tells you is there are a number of people working but their jobs don’t allow them to get benefits or to be able to afford benefits.

“People with health insurance tend to be healthier, more productive and more employable and what organization doesn’t want to have a healthier workforce? It’s going to do great things for our economy,” he said.

Grim said unlike Medicare, Medicaid is a federal-state, shared-funding program and passage of State Question 802 will reduce the percentage for which the state is responsible with this expanded population.

“Right now, the federal government pays 66% of the Medicaid bill and Oklahoma pays 34%,” he said.

Passing State Question 802 will change the portion the federal government pays to 90% and reduce the state’s portion from 34% to 10% for this expansion population.

“I think if you ask almost anyone if we could get 90 percent of something paid for, whether it was roads, a new military base, anything like that, people would say that’s a great deal to bring all these new jobs to the state and more money into the economy.”

He said Oklahoma’s portion would not come at the expense of taxpayers.

“There have been a number of studies, all of which have shown a number of different mechanisms without raising taxes on individuals and without hurting state programs.

“Recently we worked with the state legislature on some bills to fund a Medicaid expansion and a large portion was going to be funded by hospitals. And then over time there will be savings to at least three state programs and agencies – the state department of health, mental health and substance abuse and the state corrections department.

Grim said a large amount of new revenue will flow into Oklahoma’s economy with the measure’s passage.

“There has been taxpayers’ money going to the federal government to pay for this program, but for years Oklahoma has not taken advantage of it. We have been leaving over a billion dollars a year on the table. It’s time for us to start getting those federal funds back into Oklahoma.”

Grim said studies demonstrate an economic impact of $15.6 billion will be realized over the first five years, $6.7 of which will be in direct labor income, which is to say jobs.

“It’s not just healthcare jobs,” he said. “When more people have healthcare and more people are able to access it, all entities that end up being able to collect these additional revenues mean secondary jobs in the private sector that wouldn’t be there otherwise.

“It’s amazing what it does for Oklahoma’s economy in jobs and for people’s health who qualify for this new coverage.”

Grim said Oklahoma currently has the second highest level of uninsured population in the nation. Thirty-six states have passed Medicaid expansion and Oklahoma is one of 14 that have not.

“The Chickasaw Nation has done a study showing we will add over 17,000 new patients onto this type of health coverage and that will generate over $6 million in new revenue every year for our health system.

“That is money we turn around and reinvest in the health program of the Chickasaw Nation in our hospitals, clinics and health departments. That additional money allows us to provide more of those services,” he said.