Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Voters to decide on using TSET funds for Medicaid expansion program

Senate approves bill to use TSET funds for Medicaid; SJR27 will send plan to voters to decide

OKLAHOMA CITY – A plan to help pay for Medicaid in Oklahoma passed off the Senate floor Friday. Senate Joint Resolution 27, by Senate Majority Floor Leader Kim David, R-Porter, refers to Oklahoma voters a constitutional amendment to allow a larger portion of the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Fund (TSET) annual settlement payments to go towards paying for either the governor’s Medicaid expansion program or Medicaid expansion that may result from the approval of a pending state question.

“The Governor made the decision to expand Medicaid, and there is a looming state question that would enshrine Medicaid expansion in the state Constitution.  The price tag of Medicaid expansion will be upwards of $164 million regardless of the method of expansion.  We don’t have that money in the General Revenue Fund.  I’ve never been for Medicaid expansion, but I think it is responsible to find a way to pay for expansion since it’s happening via the governor’s expansion plan or the method outlined in State Question 802.  The TSET fund was created to improve the health of Oklahomans, so it makes sense to consider using it to pay for providing healthcare to more Oklahomans,” David said.

Created by voters in 2000, TSET is an endowment trust established with payments from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) between 46 states and the tobacco industry. Funds are invested by a Board of Investors, and only the earnings from those investments are used by the Board to support programs focused on improving the health of Oklahomans. The TSET Fund is constitutionally protected and can only be changed through a vote of the people.

David explained that Oklahoma currently has more than $1.3 billion in the endowment trust.  SJR 27 would ask the voters to decide whether to use 75% of the annual TSET settlement payments for Medicaid expansion in order to draw down federal matching dollars for the Medicaid program. None of the endowment money would be spent under SJR27.


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