Medicaid expansion ekes out victory with Oklahoma voters

Oklahoma voters on Tuesday approved a ballot measure to expand Medicaid in the state, becoming the first to do so following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The vote follows similar approvals of late in states like Nebraska, Idaho and Utah, which did not expand Medicaid initially under the Affordable Care Act.

Amber England, campaign manager for the Yes on 802 effort, said on a call with reporters Wednesday following the vote that these previous campaigns set the stage for the push for expansion in Oklahoma.

"What we didn’t know is the extent of just how excited Oklahomans would be about this election," England said. "It was pretty clear from day one that we were growing something special here."

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The "yes" vote was quite narrow, however; the measure was approved by a 50.5% of voters, with 49.5% voting against, The New York Times reported.

John Tidwell, chairman of the Vote No on 802 Association, told The Oklahoman that the lack of overwhelming enthusiasm is notable. Just seven counties in the state approved the measure, including Oklahoma County and Tulsa County, which include the state's two largest cities.

"Results are clear: a plan that claims to ‘save rural health care’ was overwhelming rejected by rural communities across Oklahoma," he said told the newspaper. "Voters in more than 90% of Oklahoma counties voted against SQ802."

The measure also faced opposition from Gov. Kevin Stitt.

Missouri will be the next state to vote on expansion, with the measure included on its Aug. 4 primary ballot.