OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Nearly one-quarter of Oklahomans receiving health care through Medicaid, about 300,000 people, will no longer be eligible by the end of this year, mostly because they or a parent earn too much to qualify, state health officials said Tuesday.
Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO Kevin Corbett outlined the state's plan to notify people who are losing coverage over the next nine months. Corbett says most of those people, including children, will be phased out because they or a caregiver earn more than 138% of the federal poverty level, which is the income threshold to qualify for the program called SoonerCare in Oklahoma. The threshold translates to about $18,000 a year for an individual or about $39,000 for a family of four.
At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the federal government agreed to allow people to stay on Medicaid even if they started to make more money than usually allowed. That ended in December when Congress passed a bill that included ending the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Nationwide, millions are expected to be bumped from Medicaid, which provides health care coverage to nearly 80 million low-income people. The federal government also will wind down extra funds given to states for the added enrollees over the next year.
In Oklahoma, roughly one-third of the population, or 1.3 million people, receive health coverage through Medicaid, said Corbett, who also is Gov. Kevin Stitt's cabinet secretary of health and mental health. He estimated about 300,000 of those recipients would lose coverage, about 60% of whom are adults ages 19 to 64, and the rest being children.
The first group of people losing coverage will be out of SoonerCare by April 30, and consist of those earning more than the income threshold, who have no children and already have other health coverage, Corbett said. Roughly a month later, more people without children will be cut off, even if they have no other coverage. That group will be limited to people with few or no health care claims over the last six months.
"We've thought long and hard about how to do this with a level of compassion and making sure we don't impact our most vulnerable," Corbett said.
Health officials are hopeful most of those who lose coverage will be able to enroll in a plan through the federal marketplace, which offers tax subsidies to help low- and moderate-income people purchase health insurance. Some who have found jobs may be able to join employer-sponsored plans.