Oklahoma hospital group spearheads campaign to expand Medicaid

Group formed by Oklahoma Hospital Association launches website and radio ads to persuade Oklahoma policymakers to accept nearly $9 billion in federal funding, which Gov. Mary Fallin has rejected.
by Chris Casteel Published: May 1, 2013
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— A group spearheaded by the Oklahoma Hospital Association has launched a public-relations campaign aimed at persuading state officials to expand the Medicaid program — though the campaign studiously avoids using the word Medicaid.

The group, Oklahomans for a Healthy Economy, has established a website and financed a radio ad that says Washington is about to spend $8.6 billion on health care in Oklahoma and that the money will be spent in other states if Oklahoma rejects it.

“Oklahoma needs this money to improve our health care system, to cover more Oklahomans, to reduce the cost of coverage and create over 15,000 jobs,” the ad says.

“We pay our taxes. This is our money. And we can spend it better than Washington politicians. So let's get together and make a plan for Oklahoma's health care money.”

Neither the ad, nor the group's website, uses the word Medicaid, the name of the federal-state health care program for the poor.

The strategy of framing the issue as the rejection or acceptance of federal money — rather than pitching it as Medicaid expansion — appears to be supported by a recent survey done for the Oklahoma Hospital Association.

That survey, by the Oklahoma City firm CMA strategies, showed 51 percent of those polled said Oklahoma should definitely or probably accept the money, with 35 percent saying the money should definitely be accepted.

Of the 500 Oklahomans polled last week, 30 percent said the money should definitely be turned down, while 4 percent said it should probably be rejected; 15 percent were undecided.

A bare majority of Republicans opposed accepting the money, while a strong majority of Democrats favored it.

A brief analysis of the poll results by CMA Strategies says: “When framed not as an expansion of Medicaid, but rather as accepting or rejecting federal money, a majority of Oklahomans favor accepting the money.”

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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