Election Roundup: Oklahoma Hearts Obamacare!
Oklahoma voters yesterday narrowly approved a ballot initiative to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, making it the fifth state where voters have passed Medicaid expansion after years of Republican leaders' blocking it. It's an amendment to the state constitution, too, so that means the state won't be able to add poor-fucking measures like premiums or work requirements, hooray! The vote effectively scuttles an effort by Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt to put in place a watered-down expansion of the state's Medicaid alternative, called "SoonerCare." Stitt's "Soonercare 2.0" would have expanded eligibility but also would have loaded the program up with work requirements, premiums, and a per-capita spending cap. But don't worry, we're sure Oklahoma's GOP overlords will still find ways to screw with the program.
And let's not forget that, if the Trump administration get their wish, the Supreme Court might still invalidate Obamacare altogether. Oklahoma, we were surprised to learn, isn't among the red states that joined that dumb Texas lawsuit aimed at killing every last bit of the ACA. So if the lawsuit succeeds, maybe Stitt can print up bumper stickers saying "Don't Blame Me, I Didn't File An Amicus Brief."
Once the expansion goes into effect next summer, roughly 200,000 to 270,000 Oklahomans will get health coverage, although those estimates were prepared before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. It's a safe bet that the coronavirus and its economic ripple effects will still be with us in a year, so high unemployment rates are likely to mean many more people will need the benefits. Oklahoma currently has an estimated 111,000 adults who fall in the "coverage gap" — folks who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to be covered by the ACA's insurance subsidies. And Oklahoma is second only to Texas for the highest percentage of people with no insurance.
The increasing epidemic in Oklahoma may have motivated some voters, too. New cases of COVID-19 have doubled in the last month, with 585 new infections reported on election day. That's not even including the possible new infections from Donald Trump's recent Viruspalooza in Tulsa, either.
As it turns out, Stitt actually undercut his own proposal for Soonercare 2.0 when the pandemic hit. He had originally applied for permission from Health and Human Services for the program, but shortly after coronavirus cases began to expand, Stitt vetoed the funding bill that would have paid for Soonercare 2.0, reasoning that too many people would need care, so the hell with it. The state withdrew the HHS application for the broader program, but one part is still pending, an application to switch Oklahoma's Medicaid funding to a block grant under Trump's "Healthy Adult Opportunity" program. In plain English, that would have meant funding cuts, since the grants would be limited to a yearly amount regardless of how many people might need it. Politico reports it's not yet clear whether yesterday's initiative will block that part of Oklahoma's Medicaid fuckery. Hooray, lawsuits are inevitable!
In other election results, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who did what Wonkette told him to do and ran for the US Senate after dropping out of the presidential race, won his state's Democratic nomination to go up against failing, flailing incumbent Republican Sen. Cory Gardner. Hickenlooper had stupidly answered a question about protests against police brutality by saying that "Black Lives Matter" means "every life matters," which was dumb. That gave a boost in polling for his primary opponent, former state House speaker Andrew Romanoff, who ran to the left of Hickenlooper. Ultimately, though, Hickenlooper won the primary, getting 59.5 percent to 40. 5 percent with most of the votes counted.
Also in Colorado, nutso QAnon candidate and hydroxychloroquine fan Lauren Boebert won the GOP primary for the congressional seat held by five-term boringly conservative GOP incumbent Rep. Scott Tipton, despite Donald Trump's endorsement of Tipton. Here's hoping the Democratic candidate, Diane Mitsch Bush, can pick up the seat. It seems possible; while the district leans Republican, it also includes Aspen, and there may be enough Rs who figure they'd rather have a Democrat representing them than a loon.
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