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Attempts to repeal Affordable Care Act put Oklahoma patients in jeopardy (Guest post: Teresa Huggins)

by | July 26th, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (1)

Teresa Huggins is CEO of Stigler Health and Wellness Center in eastern Oklahoma.

Teresa Huggins

Being raised in small town, rural Oklahoma comes with its benefits.  Among those benefits are the close friendships, supports and cohesiveness of knowing everyone; however, many communities face extreme poverty and lack access to basic medical care, not to mention specialty care for the diverse needs and populations that reside in the rural landscapes of Oklahoma.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted to help ensure that Americans are able to access affordable health care, regardless of their residence or income status.  Millions have gained coverage through the ACA, and the law is helping shift the health care industry toward more preventive care instead of waiting to address health issues until something has gone seriously wrong.  In part thanks to the ACA, our health center has experienced a drop in uninsured patients, from 26 percent in 2013 to 19 percent in 2016.  Many of the patients newly enrolled in insurance may not have received care if not for the ACA.  Our health center has helped 2,749 patients obtain insurance, many through the individual marketplace created under the ACA. These patients will certainly be in jeopardy of becoming uninsured again if the ACA is repealed.

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New Senate health care draft does not fix bill’s core problems and makes some of them worse

by | July 17th, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

Last week, Senate Republican leaders released a “new” version of their health care bill. We wrote before about how the first draft of this bill would make Americans pay more for worse health coverage and how it would undercut the health care safety net. Unfortunately, the new draft does not fix the original Senate bill’s core problems and makes some of them worse.

The Senate bill would drastically cut Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, SoonerCare, reducing federal support an estimated 26 percent by 2026, with larger cuts to come as health care costs grow. Oklahoma would have to make up the difference either by raising taxes or cutting services for the hundreds of thousands of low-income people with disabilities, seniors, and families with children who rely on SoonerCare. These cuts would also threaten thousands of jobs in the state, since health care is Oklahoma’s largest employment sector and 25 percent of those jobs are supported by Medicaid.

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Under health care bill, many could lose coverage to pay for tax cuts for a few (Capitol Update)

by | July 7th, 2017 | Posted in 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.

Most of the action last week seemed to come from the federal level, and it was focused primarily on the health care debate. Well, as much as it was focused at all. There seems to be a consensus that changes in the Affordable Care Act are necessary to keep health care insurance companies in business and profitable at a premium rate that Americans can afford to pay. While some think the answer is a single-payer system, it’s fair to say we are at least one election away, probably more, from serious consideration of that idea. In the meantime, we will likely go through several variations of private/public insurance.

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Health care is increasingly central to Oklahoma’s economy

by | July 5th, 2017 | Posted in Economy, Healthcare | Comments (0)

If you ask a person on the street what Oklahoma’s economy is known for, two industries likely to come to mind are oil and gas drilling and agriculture. Yet when we look at the jobs Oklahomans are working in today, those industries play a much smaller role than that common understanding might assume.

Agricultural jobs almost vanished in the 1990s and never came back, and today the industry is barely more than one percent of the state’s GDP. Oil and gas mining still makes up a sizable portion of the state GDP, and that sector provides a large segment of Oklahoma’s highest-paying jobs. However, when you look at what the average worker is doing to make a living in Oklahoma, oil and gas jobs aren’t in the top ten.

In those top ten sectors, the big story since the turn of the century for Oklahoma workers has nothing to do with the ups and downs of oil and gas. Instead, the most important trend for workers has been the steady rise of jobs in health care.

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Watch This: A True Medicaid Story

by | July 3rd, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare, Watch This | Comments (0)

Joshua Proffitt is a college student at East Georgia State College. He’s made the Dean’s List with a 3.5 GPA, wants to work in radio broadcasting, and has a remarkable ability to predict NASCAR results, earning him the nickname, “The Proffitt.” In five years, Joshua wants to work for a sports radio network.

Joshua also has cerebral palsy. Through Medicaid, Joshua gets daily in-home care from attendants who help with everything from dressing and brushing Joshua’s teeth to taking him to college and taking notes for him. In this video by the  Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, Joshua, his parents, and a caregiver describe how Medicaid has made Joshua’s accomplishments possible — and how deep cuts to Medicaid in the Congressional GOP health care bill would jeopardize Joshua’s life and his dreams.

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Second verse, only worse: What the Senate Republican health care plan would mean for Oklahoma

by | June 27th, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (1)

Last week, Senate Republicans emerged from secret negotiations to unveil their version of a major health care bill. Those expecting that the Senate would produce a better health plan than the House are likely underwhelmed by the Senate’s efforts. The Senate Republican health plan (the Better Care Reconciliation Plan, or BCRA) would require Americans purchasing private insurance on the individual marketplace to pay substantially more for worse health coverage. It would also undercut the American health care safety net, nearly doubling the uninsured rate, while delivering a massive tax cut for corporations and the wealthy.

The Affordable Care Act has provided popular new consumer protections to all Americans and extended health coverage to tens of millions who couldn’t get it before. Nevertheless, many Oklahomans remain unsatisfied with high premiums and deductibles, as well as limited insurer participation on the individual marketplace. However, rather than fix these issues, the Senate bill would make them worse. Here’s how.

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Child abuse prevention and at-home care for seniors are latest services at risk due to shrinking state government (Capitol Update)

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.

Even with the legislature adjourned, there seems to be no dearth of activity emanating from Oklahoma City. The State Supreme Court has set oral arguments on the constitutional challenge to the cigarette “fee” for August 8, to be heard by the entire court. I haven’t seen the pleadings in the case, but oral arguments are usually among the last things to happen before an appellate court makes its decision. This must mean the Court decided to assume original jurisdiction and rule on the case quickly. Given the importance of the funding to the recently-passed budget and the havoc that would be created if the fee were implemented, then held unconstitutional, it’s a good thing to get the ruling before the fee is set to go into effect on August 25th.

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Care for seniors, people with disabilities at risk as DHS grapples with budget shortfall

by | June 20th, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (1)

Most Americans (nearly 90 percent of people over at 65) want to stay in their homes as long as possible as they get older. For people with disabilities, staying in one’s home represents decades of hard-fought court battles against forced institutionalization. For both seniors and people with disabilities, in-home care is vastly less expensive than a residential nursing facility, and in-home care usually means better health outcomes. In-home care is a win for all, from individuals needing the care to their families, friends, and communities.

Still, many people cannot afford to be cared for inside their homes without help from public services. For Oklahoma’s low-income seniors and people with disabilities, access to those in-home supports may be financed by Medicaid through the state’s Department of Human Services. But with the state now facing another year of flat budgets amid rising costs, those services are at risk. Despite warnings from DHS director Ed Lake that DHS needed $733 million to maintain services, and that their budget cut scenarios range “from the terrible to the unthinkable,” the Legislature gave DHS just shy of $700 million for SFY 2018. This appropriation of about 5 percent less than the agency needs to stay whole is going to mean more cuts — and in-home care services appear to be on the chopping block.

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Highs and lows of Oklahoma’s 2017 legislative session (Part 2)

Yesterday we shared a recap of what happened this legislative session with the state budget, taxes, and education policies. Today in part two, we’ll look at outcomes related to health care, criminal justice, and economic opportunity.

We began the session with a set of top priorities in all of these policy areas. We made progress on some of our issues and were disappointed by others, but we were also heartened by the large number of Oklahomans who got involved this year, many for the first time, to advocate for a better future. That advocacy was key to stopping some big threats to health care and the safety net this year, though several positive reforms fell short as well.

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Time to hit the brakes on SoonerCare privatization

by | May 23rd, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

Oklahoma’s efforts to privatize expensive care for the most fragile SoonerCare patients was contentious from the beginning. In 2015, HB 1566 directed the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which administers the state’s Medicaid (SoonerCare) program, to initiate requests for proposals for care coordination models for the program’s aged, blind, and disabled members.

This would be no small change. More than 100,000 SoonerCare members are aged, blind, or have one more disabilities, and while they make up less than 20 percent of Oklahoma’s Medicaid population, their care constitutes nearly half of its spending. These individuals tend to be very medically complex, with co-occurring chronic conditions and in-home care needs. As such, they are very sensitive to changes in their health care.

Lawmakers pushing for the transition were very clear that it was a cost-saving effort, leaving members and advocates concerned that their health needs would be overruled by budgetary concerns. These concerns increased when the Health Care Authority settled on an inflexible “fully capitated” care model, where private health insurance companies contracted by the state would receive a set per-member per-month payment and would be responsible for providing the full range of health care services to those on their plans.

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