OKLAHOMA CITY —
Donald Williams, a 57-year-old diabetic from Oklahoma City, said he works part time doing odd jobs like mowing lawns, trimming trees and sewing, but doesn't earn enough to pay for health insurance.
"We are in a bind here in Oklahoma," said Williams, who said he often can't afford to buy insulin and ends up going to an emergency room for treatment about twice a year. "You'd be surprised at the number of people who are dying because of lack of medical care."
According to estimates from the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, about 17 percent of Oklahoma's population, or 630,000 people, have no health insurance.
Alice Anderton, 63, of Norman, said she cannot afford health insurance on her annual income of about $14,000 and does not yet qualify for Medicare. She said she frequently seeks medical care at community clinics and often cannot afford simple procedures like lab tests.
"If I get a $100 bill, it's not easy to afford," Anderton said. "It comes out of food."
Tres Savage, a spokesman for VarietyCare, a nonprofit community health center, said Anderton is the kind of person who would benefit from an expansion of Medicaid.
"Many people who spend most of their adult life from 18 to 64 working jobs that don't provide health insurance will roll onto Medicare at age 65 having not had regular health insurance or health care for more than 40 years," Savage said. "At that point these patients are often very sick and extremely costly not only to the health care system but to our federally financed Medicare system."