More Than 135,000 Oklahomans Now Get Benefits Under SoonerCare Expansion

Thursday, July 22nd 2021, 5:29 pm

It's been three weeks since Oklahomans who applied for SoonerCare under the new expansion could start going to the doctor. 

A lot of those newly eligible people tried to get SoonerCare in the past but were denied. Health officials said the expansion helps a lot of people who usually fall through the cracks.

"There are more than 135,000 Oklahomans that are receiving benefits through Medicaid expansion," said Oklahoma Health Care Authority's Chief of Communications Melisaa Richey.

The SoonerCare expansion is well underway as the first of the month is when new applicants could use their benefits. More than 200,000 qualified, and many who did apply have gone through the process before.

"So these were people who applied at one time. They were, did not receive services because they did not qualify," said Richey. "Several thousand of Oklahomans who were denied over the past 90 days." 

Women make up about 70% of those applicants. People who have never tried to get Medicaid benefits are starting to apply, too, with roughly 1,000 new applications coming in a day. It's one trend that is pleasantly surprising to health officials.

Richey said they're seeing more 25- to 34-year-olds applying for benefits.

"What I routinely saw is people who worked, had jobs, had income, but simply they made too much, or they didn't qualify, or they work for a company that simply didn't provide health insurance," said OU Health's Dr. Dale Bratzler.

Braztler said the surge in new people insured may initially make a visit to see a doctor more difficult, but the influx could create more access to care in the future.

"This adds a new population to that group of people that need to have screenings done, so it's going to take a while for the health care system to catch up," Bratzler said. "The additional funding that'll be available with Medicaid expansion will allow hospitals to keep their doors open, perhaps hire a primary care doctors or advanced practice professionals like nurse practitioners or PAs."

College students or recent graduates are a group that health officials said they want to see insured. They are also working to reach people living in more rural parts of the state. Less than 60% of new applicants live in cities. 


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