Kansas is considering expanding health coverage. Oklahoma should, too.

by | March 25th, 2015 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)
Photo by  Theophilos Papadopoulos used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo by Theophilos Papadopoulos used under a Creative Commons license.

It’s no secret that Kansas’s budget is in crisis. Following years of tax cuts and fiscal mismanagement, the state finds itself in a $600 million budget shortfall. The state is scrambling to fill the gap, including across-the-board budget reductions and further cuts to public schools that the Kansas Supreme Court has already ruled are constitutionally underfunded.

If you think this sounds familiar, you’re right. Oklahoma is in a similar situation – a $611 million budget hole, agencies facing devastating budget cuts, and a public education system badly in need of an infusion of funds.

However, unlike Oklahoma, Governor Brownback and the Kansas legislature are showing signs of being willing to consider the full range of options available to them. This includes boosting the state budget by working with the federal government to expand health coverage to the state’s low-income uninsured.

continue reading Kansas is considering expanding health coverage. Oklahoma should, too.

What Fallin’s goals for state government tell us about Oklahoma

by | February 24th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Criminal Justice, Education, Healthcare | Comments (2)
Photo by House GOP

Photo by House GOP

During her 2015 State of the State Address, Governor Fallin announced a new state website that would identify measurable objectives for state government and track how Oklahoma is doing at reaching these objectives over time. The website looks at 160 metrics in five areas: Healthy Citizens & Strong Families; Safe Citizens & Secure Communities; Educated Citizens & Exemplary Schools; Prosperous Citizens & Thriving Economy; and Effective Services & Accountable Government. For each metric, the site shares a current statistic and a target to reach in the next few years. The site also describes some of what the state is doing to reach that target.

Fallin implied that the metrics would influence state budget decisions, saying, “Our goal is to change the paradigm when it comes to state agency management. Using OkStateStat, Oklahoma will become the first state in the nation to develop a comprehensive budgeting system that ties spending to measurable goals and outcomes.” That change in paradigm is yet to be seen in the Governor’s most recent budget proposal, which she released on the same day. The latest budget continues the pattern set by most previous budgets in her administration — flat funding or small increases to a few state agencies, across the board cuts to everything else.

continue reading What Fallin’s goals for state government tell us about Oklahoma

Sleeping dogs of the 2015 session

by | February 18th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare, Immigration, Poverty | Comments (0)
Photo by Chris Waits

Photo by Chris Waits

The 2015 session is now underway and it’s clear that this year, as always, will feature heated debates on a multitude of contentious issues, from proposals to expand school choice through vouchers and charter schools to efforts to rein in tax credits to hot-button social issues, such as guns, abortion, and same-sex marriage.

Less noted, but perhaps equally significant, is the low profile of several issues that have been highly contentious in recent years and that many expected to see back on the agenda in 2015. Here’s a review of four issues on which few, if any, bills have been filed and it now appears that minimal legislative action is likely this session.

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The ACA’s second Open Enrollment Period is almost over. Here’s what you need to know.

by | February 13th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)
Image used under a Creative Commons license

Image used under a Creative Commons license

The Affordable Care Act’s second Open Enrollment Period was largely a quiet affair. Without the headline-grabbing website glitches that plagued its predecessor, it has largely coasted under the radar.

In fact, open enrollment has been substantially more successful this time around. Last year’s open enrollment ran from November 15th through May 1st – over six months, with a last-minute two-week grace period. Nearly 70,000 Oklahomans enrolled. This year, consumers have had half that time – but in that time, nearly 110,000 Oklahomans have signed up for 2015 health plans on Healthcare.gov since November, according to the US Department of Health and Human. Over 4 in 10 are likely new consumers who didn’t choose a plan last year.

continue reading The ACA’s second Open Enrollment Period is almost over. Here’s what you need to know.

Oklahoma’s health ranking: same song, another verse

by | February 3rd, 2015 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

graph 1The latest nationwide health ranking is out, and Oklahoma in its customary trailing position on national comparisons. United Health Foundation’s annual America’s Health Rankings report placed Oklahoma 46th in the US for the health of our people. This continues the state’s steady march downward since the group began compiling and releasing rankings. Since the rankings were first released in 1990, we’ve fallen to 46th from a solid 32.

So what’s going on? United Health Foundation bases the ranking on a wide range of variables, from prevalence of smoking to high school graduation rates. While Oklahoma’s indicators generally ranked badly, the report identified three primary areas of concern:

continue reading Oklahoma’s health ranking: same song, another verse

Priorities for Oklahoma lawmakers in 2015

Photo by Kool Cats Photography.

Photo by Kool Cats Photography.

Oklahoma’s 2015 Legislative session kicks off today with a State of the State address from Governor Mary Fallin. OK Policy and the Together Oklahoma coalition have identified six priorities for the coming session that are practical, politically achievable steps to move Oklahoma toward lasting, broad-based prosperity. Read on for brief summaries of our priorities and links to a fact sheet for each one, or click here for a 2-page summary of the six priorities. If you want to join the campaign to make any of these goals happen for Oklahoma, check here to see how you can get involved.

continue reading Priorities for Oklahoma lawmakers in 2015

Rejecting federal funds is devastating Oklahoma’s rural hospitals

by | January 7th, 2015 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (5)
Photo by  Spyros Papaspyropoulos  used under a Creative Commons license

Photo by Spyros Papaspyropoulos
used under a Creative Commons license

During negotiations over the Affordable Care Act, America’s hospitals looked at the landscape, took a deep breath, and decided to take one for the team. They agreed to accept cuts of $155 billion over ten years to help cover the costs of health reform, largely through decreased Medicare payments, figuring improvements in insurance coverage would make up the difference. But in 22 states, officials haven’t accepted federal funds to help expand health coverage to the low-income uninsured. This means that hospitals in non-expansion states are still treating high numbers of uninsured patients – and those costs aren’t being covered.

This isn’t a “self-inflicted wound” for hospitals, as some have contended. The law as originally approved by Congress required states to expand coverage or risk losing all Medicaid funds — a deal that was changed retroactively when the US Supreme Court made expansion optional. State leaders still have the option to expand health coverage at little cost to the state. But in Oklahoma, they haven’t done their part: uncompensated care expenditures haven’t dropped as expected to cover lower Medicare reimbursements, and hospitals are hemorrhaging as a result.

continue reading Rejecting federal funds is devastating Oklahoma’s rural hospitals

Protecting Oklahoma’s most vulnerable infants (Guest Post: Cassidy Hamilton)

by | January 6th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare, Poverty, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (1)

CassidyHamiltonCassidy Hamilton is one of four 2014-2015 OK Policy Research Fellows. Cassidy graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Economics and is currently pursuing a Masters of Public Administration at the University of Oklahoma. She works as an AmeriCorps volunteer in Norman where she coordinates a tutoring program for at-risk students. Cassidy is interested in health and housing policy, economic development, community lending in low-income areas, and the interconnectedness of fiscal and monetary policy.

Infant mortality is the death of a child under one year of age, and the infant mortality rate (IMR) is the number of those deaths per every 1,000 births (see chart below). According to the CDC, the IMR is an important measure because the mortality of a population’s infants can be indicative of broader factors affecting the health and well-being of the population at large. Beyond its importance as a public health measure, for families of babies who die before they reach their first birthday, infant mortality is an immeasurable personal tragedy.

continue reading Protecting Oklahoma’s most vulnerable infants (Guest Post: Cassidy Hamilton)

On World AIDS Day, a Q&A about HIV and AIDS in Oklahoma

by | December 1st, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)
AIDS/HIV memorial. Photo by byronv2.

AIDS/HIV memorial. Photo by byronv2.

Since 1988, health advocates around the world have recognized World AIDS Day as an opportunity to unify in the fight against AIDS. To learn more about HIV/AIDS in Oklahoma, we spoke with Kathy Williams, executive director of Health Outreach Prevention Education, Inc. (H.O.P.E.), a Tulsa-based HIV/AIDS testing and educational organization. Her answers are summarized below.

continue reading On World AIDS Day, a Q&A about HIV and AIDS in Oklahoma

Legislature’s wandering budget hands get slapped again

by | November 25th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Healthcare | Comments (0)

pickpocketFor the second time, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has struck down a provision of this year’s state budget, ruling that the legislature acted unconstitutionally when it pulled $5 million out of the State Health Department’s Trauma Care Assistance Fund to fund other government services.

In June, the A.G. ruled that the legislature had acted improperly when it diverted $7.9 million intended for the Oklahoma Higher Access Learning Program (OHLAP), also known as Oklahoma’s Promise, for other purposes. The college scholarship money was part of $191 million that the legislature redirected from nearly 30 different agency revolving funds and other state funds in an effort to balance the FY 2015 budget and avert even deeper cuts to services.  With the OHLAP money no longer available, officials decided to apply an across-the-board cut to all agencies in proportion to their funding from the FY 2015 General Revenue fund.

Back in June, we called attention to several other funding grabs by the Legislature to balance their budget. In the case of the Health Department’s Trauma Care Assistance Fund, we noted that this would result in a $3 million shortfall in payments to hospitals and other trauma care providers in FY 2015, and had also led the agency to further slash critical funding for community health centers and cut support for the cord blood bank.

continue reading Legislature’s wandering budget hands get slapped again

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