For the second consecutive year, only one state — Texas — has a higher rate of uninsured residents than Oklahoma.

Oklahoma is one of 14 states that has steadfastly refused to accept available federal funding to provide Medicaid coverage for working-age people living in poverty.

As a result, 14.2% of the state’s population didn’t have health care coverage in 2018, according to Census Bureau numbers we first saw reported in The Oklahoman.

Those numbers are significant for everyone, including the 85.8% of the state’s population that has health care coverage.

Every Oklahoman needs a financially solvent hospital system, a healthy workforce and emergency rooms that aren’t choked with indigent people seeking care from the provider of last choice. Insured Oklahomans should wake up to the fact that other people’s unpaid hospital bills mean higher prices for their own hospital care and, therefore, higher insurance premiums.

Public funding of health care works. Ten years ago, Oklahoma had an uninsured rate of 21.4% — more than 7 points higher than the current rate. What made the difference? Opening federally subsidized marketplaces for private insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

But people below the poverty line aren’t eligible for the program; and because Oklahoma has refused to accept Medicaid expansion funding, those people have no alternative beyond hospital emergency rooms and charity care.

Other states that have accepted federal Medicaid funding have dramatically reduced their uninsured rates. Arkansas, for example, had a 19.8% uninsured rate in 2008. After Medicaid expansion, Arkansas’ rate is down to 8.2%.

Oklahomans are paying for Medicaid expansion in 36 other states and Washington, D.C., but not getting to take advantage of it because of political obstinacy. As a result, we are poorer, sicker and less able to move ahead.

— Tulsa World

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