#OKsays: Save SoonerCare!

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Here is some more information on how Oklahoma Medicaid’s work requirements proposal would hurt the state and its residents:

  • SoonerCare coverage is already very limited in Oklahoma, so this proposal targets extremely low-income parents with dependent children. Most people on Medicaid in Oklahoma are children, and the next largest share are people who are aged, blind, or have one or more serious disabilities. This proposal targets the fewer than 1 in 10 SoonerCare members who are parents trying to get by on incomes less than half the poverty level.

  • This proposal creates a Catch-22 for parents. If these parents don’t meet the work requirement they will have their Soonercare terminated and lose their health coverage. However, if they work the hours needed to stay on SoonerCare, they’ll earn too much to qualify for SoonerCare and will still lose their coverage. It’s unlikely these parents will have any other coverage options, leaving them unable to see a doctor or fill a prescription.

  • This proposal is especially punitive in a state that has refused Medicaid expansion. Every other state that has received federal permission to to cut coverage for people who don’t meet a work requirement has expanded its Medicaid programs, meaning childless adults with incomes up to 138 percent of the poverty level are able to enroll. By comparison, the Oklahomans targeted by this proposal are all extremely low-income parents – mostly single mothers –  with incomes at less than half the poverty level.

  • Losing health coverage will make life worse in multiple ways for low-income families and children. If parents lose their SoonerCare because they don’t report enough hours and then get sick, or can’t afford medication for a chronic conditions like asthma or depression, they’ll be less able to work. This will result in some children losing coverage, because parents who can’t access health care themselves are less likely to be informed how to get and keep their children covered.

  • Most parents on Medicaid who can work already do work. Of the very small share of parents who don’t already work, most have barriers to employment that a work requirement won’t help to address. Some may have a persistent illness, while others may have to care for a child or relative with a disability, or lack access to reliable transportation. Tying Soonercare to work is no way to strengthen our state’s workforce. On the contrary, other states’ experiences with expanding Medicaid show that increasing access to care – not cutting coverage – is what makes it easier for people to get and keep a job.

  • Building a new system to monitor SoonerCare members’ work activities will be expensive. Working families risk losing their coverage if they don’t fill out the right paperwork, and the state’s proposal gives almost no detail on how the state will manage that risk or what it would cost. These are important factors especially for parents with disabilities and chronic illnesses, who will lose coverage if they can’t navigate this bureaucracy successfully.

  • Other states have implemented similar proposals with disastrous results. In Arkansas, thousands have already lost health coverage, including many who were working but were confused about how to report their hours. In some instances, people have lost jobs due to this program, because after losing their health care they were no longer able to get the treatments they needed to stay healthy enough to work.