Oklahomans approval of Medicaid expansion will improve health outcomes and reduce cancer disparities for 200,000 citizens now eligible for health care coverage.
On June 30, a majority of voters responded "yes" to Question 802, which asked if Medicaid should be fully expanded to low-income adults earning less than $17,609 a year for an individual and $36,156 for a family of four, as permitted under the federal health law. The vote was 340,279 to 333,761.
The following is a statement from Lisa Lacasse, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) president.
"This victory is an incredible development for public health in Oklahoma, which currently has the second-highest uninsured rate in the nation. According to American Cancer Society research, uninsured rates in Medicaid expansion states fell from nearly 10 to about 3.5 percent between 2011-2014,while in non-expansion states the decline was much smaller, from 15 to 14 percent. This decline in the number of uninsured, also resulted in a statistically significant shift toward stage I diagnosis in common cancers like, lung, breast and colon. ACS studies have found, for instance, low income women were 25% more likely to adhere to screening guidelines in expansion states than in non-expansion states. Early detection of cancer increases a patient's chance for survival&#and decreases treatment costs. With this vote, Oklahomans have elected to save lives and long-term health care costs.
"Tuesday's vote also comes as more than two-thirds of Oklahoma's rural hospitals operate at a loss, and at least half the state's hospitals are at-risk of closure. Ensuring more individuals have access to health coverage through Medicaid will mean much needed additional revenue to these hospitals, by ensuring rural residents have greater access to cancer screenings, treatment and follow-up care, as well as positively impacting rural community economies statewide where these health systems are located.
"ACS CAN is grateful to all our volunteers in Oklahoma who worked hard to encourage their fellow Oklahomans to vote yes on Question 802 and commends the voters for standing up for the health of their neighbors, family and friends."
When the initiative goes into effect, Oklahoma will join the 36 other states, and the District of Columbia, that have increased access to their Medicaid programs to cover more low-income residents.