Legislators are being asked to increase Medicaid funding to provide health care to more children and to find new ways to provide prenatal care and education to poor mothers, including illegal immigrants.
Two groups were out Tuesday at the Capitol giving information to lawmakers.
Members of the Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy said that by increasing Medicaid eligibility for children from 185 percent of the poverty level to 300 percent — the maximum allowed by federal restrictions — the state’s Medicaid program would be able to provide coverage for as many as 40,000 more children.
The proposal is contained in Senate Bill 424. It passed the Senate and is awaiting action by a committee in the House of Representatives.
In Oklahoma, about 130,000 children, or 15 percent, have no health insurance, said Anne Roberts, executive director of the child advocacy institute.
Passage of the bill would allow affordable coverage to “gap families,” or those who make too much to be eligible for Medicaid but who may be not be offered or be able to afford family coverage through their employer, said Sen. Tom Adelson, D-Tulsa, a co-author of the measure.
In 2006, 185 percent of the poverty line for a family of four was about $37,000. Raising the cap to 300 percent would make that same family eligible with a household income of $60,000, supporters said.
Increasing the eligibility would cost the state about $8.5 million annually with the federal government providing an additional $30 million. Plans are to use money that has been earmarked for smoking cessation programs or a program that helps small businesses provide health insurance for workers.
Another group, the Coalition for Healthy Babies, praised legislators for passing a resolution recognizing the need for proper prenatal care, but said it is vital Oklahoma provide prenatal care to babies whose mothers are immigrants.
The infants are born as American citizens, said Dr. Robert Mannel, the coalition’s chairman, but because Oklahoma does not provide theses babies’ mothers the prenatal care they need, babies are at risk of greater health problems that can cost taxpayers more money.