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Stitt vetoes key bill to fund Medicaid expansion plan

Gov. Kevin Stitt delivers his State of the State Address in the House Chambers of the Oklahoma House of Representative in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020.  [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]
Gov. Kevin Stitt delivers his State of the State Address in the House Chambers of the Oklahoma House of Representative in Oklahoma City, Okla. on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020. [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday vetoed legislation that would have funded a large chunk of his plan to expand Medicaid on July 1.

Stitt vetoed Senate Bill 1046, which would increase a hospital fee to bring in an additional $134 million to cover most of the state's share of Medicaid expansion.

The governor explained his veto, saying the bill falls short because SB 1046 doesn't fully fund his SoonerCare 2.0 plan for the upcoming budget year and doesn't fund the plan beyond fiscal year 2021.

“This bill doesn’t fully fund SoonerCare 2.0 in the first year, and it doesn’t even consider funding for the second year," he said. "I will always protect the taxpayer and I will not sign unfunded mandates in the middle of a massive budget deficit.”

The state's share of Medicaid expansion is anticipated to cost about $164 million next year, more than originally anticipated.

SB 1046 sought to raise the Supplemental Hospital Offset Payment Program up to its ceiling of 4%. Enacted in the 2011, the program assesses a fee on annual net patient revenue at 65 Oklahoma hospitals. The fee that is adjusted annually currently sits at 2.3%.

Stitt did not, however, veto a companion bill that authorizes the director of the Office of Management and Enterprise Services to transfer from state reserve accounts any additional funds necessary to fund the expansion. Together, the two bills were intended to cover the full costs of the expansion.

The governor appeared to waffle on expanding Medicaid at all due to skyrocketing unemployment caused by the economic fallout of coronavirus pandemic. More people are expected to qualify for Medicaid, and that means Medicaid expansion and the state's current Medicaid program are expected to cost about $100 million more next year than originally anticipated.

Sen. Greg McCortney, R-Ada, a key player in the expansion discussion, previously told The Oklahoman he was in favor of pumping the brakes on the expansion due to all of those factors.

Stitt did not specify what he wants legislators to do next. He also did not indicate if he still wants to expand Medicaid on July 1.

Amber England, campaign manager for Yes on 802, said politicians can't be trusted on the issue of Medicaid expansion. The campaign is supporting State Question 802, which will ask voters to expand Medicaid when it appears on the ballot on June 30. If passed, Oklahoma must expand Medicaid by July 1, 2021.

"The Governor's veto of his own plan to expand Medicaid is just further proof why it's time for voters to decide this issue for themselves," England said.

Carmen Forman

Carmen Forman covers the state Capitol and governor's office for The Oklahoman. A Norman native and graduate of the University of Oklahoma, she previously covered state politics in Virginia and Arizona before returning to Oklahoma. Read more ›

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