Watch this: “Is Obamacare Working? The Affordable Care Act Five Years Later”

by | April 30th, 2015 | Posted in Healthcare, Watch This | Comments (1)

On the five-year anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act, author and blogger John Green asks: is it working?

The answer is yes – and no. In the clip below, Green discusses the ACA’s successes, including a sharply declining uninsured rate, early indicators of better health outcomes,  an end to discrimination against people with preexisting conditions, and reduced job lock. He also discusses how there’s still work to be done on some fundamental issues in the health care system that contribute to America’s very high health care costs. As Green notes, “…the ACA didn’t replace the existing [health care] system so much as it grew on top of it.”

Watch the clip to see more.

Click through to the video page and choose “see more” in the video description box to see Green’s sources.

Federal Money As Promised (FMAP)

by | April 16th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

It’s rare that Congress finds bipartisan consensus on important issues, but that happened last month when the House approved health care legislation that includes an extension of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Last night the bill was overwhelmingly approved by the Senate and is expected to be signed into law by President Obama.

Under this law, states will receive a substantially higher federal match rate for coverage of certain low-income children through 2017. Oklahoma will see a 23 percentage point jump in its SCHIP match rate in fiscal year 2016.

The temporary boost in the federal match was included in the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010 but was not initially funded. The higher match will boost federal Medicaid spending in Oklahoma by $42 million, according to projections from our state Medicaid agency.

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Medicaid back on the chopping block

by | April 7th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Health Care, Healthcare | Comments (0)

chopping block

Photo by Eric Tastad used under a Creative Commons license.

As the Oklahoma Legislature enters the final months of session, state agencies and the populations they serve are bracing for another round of painful budget cuts. A stark example of the high stakes involved in this year’s budget shortfall is the state’s Medicaid program, which provides health care to over 800,000 low-income children, pregnant women, seniors, and persons with disabilities. There is no plausible scenario under which Medicaid will avoid cuts. But unless legislators are willing to take action to boost revenues substantially, the cuts to Medicaid providers, and the impact on the people they serve, could be enormous.

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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.

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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

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