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Communications & Public Affairs
June 1, 2018

Contact: Minority Leader Steve Kouplen
Phone: (405) 557-7306

House Dems Respond to Virginia Accepting Medicaid Expansion

OKLAHOMA CITY – Several House Democrats have released statements of praise for Virginia Democrats who fought to get the state legislature to accept the federal government’s Medicaid expansion.

Oklahoma House Democrats view Virginia’s success, which provides healthcare to more than 400,000 new Virginians, as an opportunity to pass similar legislation in Oklahoma.

“Virginia lawmakers showed empathy, humanity and understanding,” said Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman. “Meanwhile, in Oklahoma, Republican lawmakers are working to get people off of Medicaid rolls. This trend must change. We have to refuse to support leaders that see healthcare as a waste of money instead of a right.”

Expanding Medicaid eligibility would expand coverage to more than 100,000 working Oklahomans, and it would encourage these Oklahomans to be more proactive about their health, which is necessary if Oklahoma wants to change its status as a leader in heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

“When you think about the families that expanding Medicaid would benefit, it’s just heart wrenching that the state legislature refuses to act,” said Rep. Meloyde Blancett, D-Tulsa. “This body, as has shown recently, won’t think twice about passing legislation that benefits a very narrow swath of Oklahomans, but when it comes to something as important as ensuring our citizens are taken care of and that our workforce is healthy, we do nothing. Oklahomans are suffering due to this inaction, and it’s sad.”

By increasing the number of Oklahomans that are insured, expanding Medicaid would offer rural health centers a larger consumer base to fund their operations. Many rural health centers today could not operate if not for Medicaid.

“Oklahoma’s rural health centers have been gutted and even closed due to the disastrous cuts that have taken place in state government over the last decade,” said Rep. David Perryman, D-Chickasha. “I applaud Virginia lawmakers for getting it right. I’m glad they realized that the biggest assets in their state are the citizens that live there. I’m happy they realized that defunding healthcare is bad business for the state. Now, I’m just waiting on Oklahoma Republicans to realize it too.”

Regardless of whether a person agrees or disagrees as to whether healthcare is a right, the goal should always be to ensure more people are covered.

“This shouldn’t be a political issue,” said Rep. Cyndi Munson, D-Oklahoma City. “Lawmakers are sent to the legislature to make the lives of Oklahomans better. By turning healthcare into a political football, we are masterfully doing the opposite. This isn’t about whether you are a democrat or a republican. This is about your commitment to humanity, and whether or not that commitment includes taking care of the vulnerable populations around you.”

Recent cuts, by the legislature, to Oklahoma’s health care agencies have affected communities across the state. Accepting the Medicaid expansion would bring more federal dollars into our state’s healthcare system. By definition, accepting this expansion would increase local control of healthcare and improve the health and wellbeing of Oklahomans.

“Virginia has joined 33 other states that have chosen to put the health of citizens over politics,” said Minority Leader Steve Kouplen, D-Beggs. “This expansion is about meeting the needs of disabled Oklahomans. It’s about restoring some of the funding that rural health centers have lost over the last decade. It’s about doing what is right for our elderly and more vulnerable populations. Our state’s inaction on this issue has failed our citizens. It’s time to change course and bring this money home.”