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Together, we can stop HIV/AIDS (Guest Post: Shannon Hall)

by | December 1st, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

Shannon Hall is the Executive Director of Tulsa CARES, a social services agency for people living with HIV/AIDS. 

World AIDS Day is December 1st: a day of remembrance for the millions who have lost their lives to the disease, a day to support those who are in its grasp, and a day to commemorate the advances we have made to manage it. Each year brings news of more progress and more hope.  And yet, as we wait for medical breakthroughs, we have the power to stop its reach. 

Though conditions on the ground are much different in the United States and other developed countries than those in other places like Africa, the methods can work anywhere. Treatment is prevention. This is a mantra to those working in the field of HIV/AIDS prevention, management, and care. It underlies our model of outreach and connection.  But what does it mean?

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Budget troubles rolling back Oklahoma’s gains on health care (Capitol Updates)

by | November 20th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Capitol Updates, Healthcare | Comments (0)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

The Oklahoma Healthcare Authority (OHCA) announced last week that it will implement a 3 percent cut in medical provider rates beginning January 1, 2016. This is due to state funding shortages that are making it difficult for OHCA to meet the state match for federal Medicaid funds. The rate cuts will not affect behavioral health rates because the state funding for behavioral health providers comes from money appropriated to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS) rather than OHCA. So far, ODMHSAS has found other ways to meet its budget shortfalls without provider rate cuts. Behavioral health providers have good reason to feel fortunate, but there could come a time when the shoe is on the other foot and they suffer a rate cut when medical providers do not.

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Don’t touch Oklahoma’s Tobacco Settlement Trust Fund

by | November 18th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Healthcare | Comments (2)

As Oklahoma staggers through an apparently endless string of bad budget years, our investments in education, health care, public safety, and infrastructure that are tied to the annual budget cycle are suffering. Amid all the cuts and all the struggles just to survive from one year to the next, there’s at least one area where forward-thinking by an earlier generation of state leaders has left us in strong and stable condition: using tobacco settlement payments to invest in better health.

In the late 1990s, Oklahoma was one of 46 states that settled an historic lawsuit with the nation’s major tobacco companies. Under the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, states were assured an annual financial payment in perpetuity for as long as cigarettes are sold nationally as compensation for the public health-care costs associated with smoking. In return, the companies gained exemption from future state lawsuits regarding harm caused by tobacco use.

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Child uninsured rate is a health care bright spot for Oklahoma

by | November 12th, 2015 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

Some new research highlights a rare health care success story for Oklahoma. A new report from the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute Center for Children and Families found that the United States’ child uninsured rate hit an all-time low of 6 percent in 2014. Oklahoma saw one of the largest decreases in uninsured children, from 95,042 in 2013 to 82,251 in 2014 – a decline of 13.5 percent.

This is great news for many reasons. Having affordable health insurance is shown to improve child health. Children with health coverage have access to the care they need in order to keep growing and learning in school. When children who are covered do get sick, their families can take them to the doctor without fear of catastrophic health costs, and simple ailments can be managed before they can develop into more serious illnesses.

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What’s really behind Oklahoma’s rising Medicaid costs (Capitol Updates)

by | November 6th, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Capitol Updates, Economy, Healthcare | Comments (1)

Steve Lewis served as Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 1989-1991. He currently practices law in Tulsa and represents clients at the Capitol. You can sign up on his website to receive the Capitol Updates newsletter by email.

A meeting of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee last week examined why Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentages (FMAP) funds are going down in Oklahoma while at the same time those enrolled in Medicaid are increasing or remaining the same. The rationale of the federal Medicaid matching formula is that if incomes in a state are going up fewer people in the state should need Medicaid. Therefore the federal government reduces its assistance to the state. In Oklahoma incomes are up so the federal match goes down. But the number of people enrolled in Medicaid is not going down, thereby adding to the state’s budget miseries. Why?

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Affordable Care Act open enrollment: What you need to know

by | November 2nd, 2015 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

Ah, fall: crunchy leaves on sidewalks, a hint of frost in the air, pumpkin spice everything… In other words, it’s time for open enrollment, the span between Nov. 1, 2015, and Jan. 31, 2016, when people can enroll in or change their private health insurance plans. This is a particularly good time for people who are currently uninsured but who are eligible for health insurance to get covered.

How do I enroll?

Oklahomans can shop around for and enroll in health insurance via Some other states built their own health insurance marketplaces, which is why your aunt in Kentucky got hers via kynect. In states like Oklahoma that declined to build their own marketplace, residents should enroll at There you’ll be asked to provide some basic information about the people you’re looking for coverage for, as well as your projected income for the next year.

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Is Oklahoma doing enough to help returning veterans?

by | October 22nd, 2015 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

Chan Aaron is an OK Policy intern. He is pursuing an environmental policy degree at The University of Tulsa. He is also a graduate of Oklahoma State University with a degree in philosophy and a veteran of the United States Navy.

On average, twenty-two veterans kill themselves every day in the United States. An estimated 60,000 veterans are currently homeless. Veteran suicide and homelessness are serious problems in Oklahoma and the whole country. What is our response when those who have sacrificed for all of us through military service find themselves without a home, or are so troubled they think they have to end their own lives?

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Back on the road to Medicaid managed care

by | October 7th, 2015 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (3)

seniors (2)During the 2015 legislative session, lawmakers passed HB 1566, which requires the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) to solicit requests for proposals for care coordination models for Oklahomans on Medicaid who are aged, blind, or have a disability. OHCA has initiated a nearly 18-month process of gathering facts, community input, demonstration proposals, model selection, and requests for proposals. Here’s how it will work:

What is HB 1566?

 Simply put, HB 1566 requires OHCA, which administers Medicaid in Oklahoma, to initiate requests for proposals for care coordination models for the state’s aged, blind, and disabled SoonerCare population. Although a managed care system may not be the outcome, the bill’s authors say it’s what they had in mind. ​In this model of health care, treatments are coordinated through the oversight of a primary care physician or team, which provides referrals if patients need a specialist. 

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New Census data shows Oklahoma continues to trail nation in fighting poverty and covering uninsured

by | September 17th, 2015 | Posted in Healthcare, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (1)

Photo by Dorothea Lange / CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo by Dorothea Lange / CC BY-SA 2.0

New Census data shows Oklahoma made little progress in reducing the percentage of families living in poverty in 2014. In that year, almost one out of six Oklahomans (16.6 percent) were making less than the poverty line of $24,000 a year for a family of four. Changes in Oklahoma’s poverty rate were statistically insignificant compared to 2013. Poverty rates for the United States as a whole did show a small but significant decrease, dropping from 15.8 percent to 15.5 percent.

Last year was another in which Oklahoma consistently saw lower unemployment rates than the nation as a whole, but still experienced higher poverty rates. It’s clear that Oklahomans aren’t rising out of poverty, not because they aren’t working hard, but because too many jobs don’t pay a living wage.

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New data again shows what Oklahoma is giving up by refusing to expand coverage

by | September 1st, 2015 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (1)

gallup uninsured 1Another day, another reminder that Oklahoma’s politically-motivated refusal to expand health coverage for low-income residents is having a real impact in limiting access to health care for tens of thousands of Oklahomans.

It’s been two years since the Affordable Care Act’s largest provisions expanding health coverage to the uninsured took effect. In August, Gallup-Healthways Well Being Index released a study comparing the number of uninsured in 2013 with the number of uninsured in the first half of 2015 across all 50 states. The poll found that states that have embraced two primary state-level components of the Affordable Care Act – expanding access to coverage for low-income residents and establishing state-run health insurance marketplaces – have generally seen more progress in reducing the percent of residents without health insurance than states that have not.

According to Gallup’s polling, Oklahoma now has the third-highest uninsured rate in the US (17.7 percent), surpassed only by Wyoming (18.2 percent) and Texas (20.8 percent). Since 2013, Oklahoma has seen the sixth-lowest percent change in the uninsured. The state’s uninsured rate has only dropped by 3.7 percentage points in the last year and a half. With the exception of Texas, Oklahoma’s uninsured rate far outpaces that of any neighboring state.

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