Gov. Fallin blames Obama for Oklahoma’s Medicaid cuts. The real reason is closer to home.

by | July 14th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (16)
President Barack Obama greets Governor Mary Fallin at Tinker Air Force Base.

President Barack Obama greets Governor Mary Fallin at Tinker Air Force Base.

Earlier this year, we warned that Oklahoma risked deep cuts to our state’s health care safety net if we didn’t increase state funding for Medicaid and mental health services. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which administers Medicaid, needed $90 million and the Department of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services needed $20.9 million in new funding just to maintain existing services.

Instead, lawmakers budgeted flat funding for the Health Care Authority and just $2.2 million in new funding for mental health. As a result, Oklahoma has slashed Medicaid doctor reimbursements, hiked copayments for Medicaid patients, and reduced eligibility for services. Families who stand to lose behavioral health rehabilitation services have spoken out about the cuts. In response, Governor Fallin responded with a statement blaming President Obama. Governor Fallin’s spokesman Alex Weintz said:

continue reading Gov. Fallin blames Obama for Oklahoma’s Medicaid cuts. The real reason is closer to home.

Insure Oklahoma extended – but we could do so much more

by | July 9th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

InsureOklahoma_logoA rare bright spot in health care-related news came early last week with the announcement that Insure Oklahoma, a public-private partnership providing health insurance for some 18,500 low-income Oklahomans and their families, has been given permission by the federal government to continue operating for another year. 

The program had been expected to be discontinued at the end of 2013, with the understanding that the state would accept federal funds to extend health insurance coverage to all eligible low-income Oklahomans, thus negating the need for Insure Oklahoma.  But Oklahoma refused to accept the funds, and for the past two years, the state has negotiated extensions with the federal government. While heartening for those who would lose their insurance were Insure Oklahoma to expire, the current system of negotiated extensions isn’t sustainable. Here’s what’s going on:

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Opportunity Missed: the Prescription Monitoring Program in Oklahoma

by | July 3rd, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (1)
hydrocodone

Photo by Hiii Fiii used under a Creative Commons license

Prescription drug abuse is an epidemic in Oklahoma. In 2012, Oklahoma ranked first nationwide for painkiller addiction, fifth for deaths due to drug overdoses, and fifth for number of painkiller prescriptions written. Preliminary data from the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs indicates that 2013 saw 788 overdose deaths, 593 of which were from prescription drugs. These numbers are expected to rise as medical examiners review more data.

This session, lawmakers had the opportunity to enact effective legislation to combat prescription drug addiction in the state – and they fumbled it. Here’s the background:

continue reading Opportunity Missed: the Prescription Monitoring Program in Oklahoma

More proof that hiking Medicaid copays doesn’t add up

by | June 24th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (1)
Photo by Robert Neff used under a Creative Commons license.

Photo by Robert Neff used under a Creative Commons license.

As we’ve discussed before in this blog post and fact sheet, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority is considering hiking copayments for Medicaid patients to get a prescription or doctor’s visit, as a way to partially cover Oklahoma’s Medicaid funding shortfall. However, the best evidence shows that the promised savings won’t be realized. Research shows that even modest copay increases contribute to worse health outcomes for patients and don’t generate significant savings in the long run.

Unfortunately, the Health Care Authority (OHCA) does not seem to have taken this research into account when developing their plan.  OHCA documents estimate the plan will save $3.1 million for the state ($8.3 million including federal funds). However, that estimate assumes that utilization of services would remain constant, despite the fact that they would now cost significantly more.

continue reading More proof that hiking Medicaid copays doesn’t add up

Act quickly to stop harmful Medicaid changes

by | June 16th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (8)
empty wallet

Photo by NoHoDamon used under a Creative Commons license.

A few weeks ago, we reported on the Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s plan to increase copayments for Medicaid recipients in an effort to cut costs in the face of a $90 million budget shortfall.

These copay increases could be devastating to Oklahoma’s poorest and sickest citizens, and they won’t even save money in the long run. Oklahomans need to act quickly to stop the fee hikes from taking effect. The Health Care Authority Board will meet on Thursday, June 26th to consider adopting an Emergency Rule to increase the copayments.

In our new fact sheet, we explain why Oklahoma should not hike Medicaid copays. Some highlights:

continue reading Act quickly to stop harmful Medicaid changes

Oklahoma needs more primary care physicians, but we’re still putting up barriers (Guest post: JeVonna Caine)

by | June 4th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

JeVonna_CaineJeVonna Caine, one of OK Policy’s 2013-14 Research Fellows, is pursuing a Masters of Public Health in Health Administration and Policy from the OU Health Sciences Center, while also working at the State Department of Health in the Health Planning & Grants department. She has an extensive background in community health education and research with previous positions at Georgetown University and Youth Services of Tulsa.

With the influx of insurance enrollment through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka ACA, aka Obamacare), nationwide uninsured rates are at their lowest since 2008. This signals an impending increase in the demand for primary care services. However, Oklahoma is currently ranked 48th in the nation for access to primary care physicians (PCPs). Oklahoma needs to do better to grow the supply of primary care physicians, but we still put up significant barriers. Work-related stress, declining reimbursements and increasing administrative requirements all discourage medical students from training to be PCPs, particularly in rural communities.

continue reading Oklahoma needs more primary care physicians, but we’re still putting up barriers (Guest post: JeVonna Caine)

More than 50 Oklahoma musicians release song to raise awareness of Affordable Care Act

by | May 30th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare, Upcoming Events | Comments (0)

take a stand

On June 4 in Tulsa and June 5 in Oklahoma City, the Red Dirt Rangers are hosting a release party for a single and music video produced by more than fifty Oklahoma musicians. The new song, “Stand (Let Your Voices Be Heard)”, aims to raise awareness of Oklahoma’s dire health statistics, opportunities to gain health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and the need for Oklahoma to accept federal funds to extend coverage further. The event will also raise money for the Red Dirt Relief Fund, which provides assistance for Oklahoma musicians facing a medical emergency without health insurance.

Because of Oklahoma’s decision not to extend health coverage to low-income Oklahomans, some 140,000 adults have been denied access to affordable health care. The few options available to the uninsured are vulnerable to state funding cuts, and the safety net designed to help them is shrinking.

The Tulsa event will be at 7pm, Wednesday, June 4 at the Woody Guthrie Center. The Oklahoma City events will be at 5:30pm, Thursday, June 5 at the Hart Building. The events are free and open to the public. Donations and all proceeds from sales of the song will go to the Red Dirt Relief Fund.

The debate on e-cigarettes lights up (Guest Post: Breanca Thomas)

by | May 29th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (1)

Breanca Thomas is a PhD student in Health Promotion Sciences in the College of Public Health at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and a 2013-14 OK Policy Research Fellow. She intends to pursue a research career focusing on effective methods of reducing health disparities among at-risk groups.

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Oklahoma leaders have been weighing e-cigarettes’ possible commercial and health benefits with their potentially harmful health effects. The caveat? Neither risks nor benefits of these products have clear evidence.

Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, have gained popularity nationally and especially in Oklahoma. E-cigarettes are devices that simulate smoking a traditional tobacco cigarette. The device contains liquid nicotine that is heated to produce a vapor similar to cigarette smoke.

continue reading The debate on e-cigarettes lights up (Guest Post: Breanca Thomas)

Oklahoma could hike fees on the poorest and sickest citizens

by | May 28th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

copay_signsThis year’s state budget will be tough for most state services, but one of the biggest losers is Oklahomans who are insured through Medicaid. The FY2015 budget appropriates flat funding to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA), which administers Oklahoma’s Medicaid program. However, flat funding from the state translates to an $85-$90 million shortfall, due to rising enrollment and declining federal matching funds.

Without the funding it needs to continue providing the same level of services, OHCA is looking at several options to make up the gap. Steep cuts in provider reimbursement rates of almost 8 percent appear inevitable. The agency is also looking at eliminating some adult dental services and requiring prior authorization for a variety of services, from controlled substance prescriptions to back surgeries.

continue reading Oklahoma could hike fees on the poorest and sickest citizens

Commissioner Doak’s press release on marketplace enrollment costs is inaccurate, disingenuous

by | May 19th, 2014 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)
Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak

Last week, Oklahoma State Insurance Commissioner John Doak’s office released a statement blasting the cost to enroll Oklahomans in health insurance on the federal marketplaces. Commissioner Doak’s statement is both disingenuous and inaccurate. His conclusions about the cost per enrollee are based on flawed assumptions, and the relatively high cost per enrollee is partially due to his own actions.

Commissioner Doak argues that “each Oklahoma enrollee in the federal marketplace cost taxpayers an average of $1,095″ and “overall spending on the exchange has cost taxpayers nearly $7.4 billion.” He’s not wrong – but he’s also choosing not to tell the whole story. The state and federal health insurances exchanges, where Americans can compare and enroll in plans, were designed to be used for years to come – not for a single enrollment period. Calculating cost per enrollee data based on only the first year of the marketplace’s use is like building a football stadium and complaining that the first season of ticket sales didn’t pay for its construction. 

continue reading Commissioner Doak’s press release on marketplace enrollment costs is inaccurate, disingenuous