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Oklahoma has an efficient way to make sure everyone has health care… if we choose to fund it

by | October 10th, 2016 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (1)

Multitasking Medical DoctorWe’ve written before about why Oklahoma’s federally-qualified community health centers (FQHCs) are a foundation of our health care safety net. FQHCs have to meet very specific criteria: they have to reach an underserved area or population, provide comprehensive services, have an ongoing quality assurance program, and offer a sliding fee scale, among others.

Now, a new study in the American Journal of Public Health proves just how important they are. Comparing data from FQHC and non-FQHC patients over 13 states, researchers found that FQHC patients had lower health care use and spending than their non-FQHC counterparts. In fact, overall spending was 24 percent lower for FQHC patients. This is important news for Oklahoma, where 20 FQHCs with more than 90 locations provided health care to more than 184,000 people in 2015, 7 in 10 of whom were in poverty (earning less than $20,000 per year for a family of three). One in three were uninsured, and one in three were children.

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Inconvenient alcohol laws are no substitute for funding addiction treatment (Capitol Updates)

by | September 30th, 2016 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Healthcare, State Questions | 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 find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.

State Agencies are working on their budget requests for FY 2018, and eCapitol reports the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is asking for $37.8 million to pay for additional drug and alcohol treatment and prevention services if SQ 792 passes a vote of the people in November. Some might see this as a way of opposing SQ 792.

There’s no doubt ODMHSAS needs more money for drug and alcohol treatment, a lot more than an additional $37.8 million. The people who provide treatment and prevention services, working mainly through private and non-profit agencies who contract with ODMHSAS and other state agencies, have suffered for years with low payment rates for their services. In fact, thousands of Oklahomans who already need treatment can’t get it. Failure to get timely treatment leads to worsening of the addiction, declining mental and physical health, economic and family crises and ultimately more cost to society.

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New Census data shows Oklahoma improves on poverty and uninsured rates but still lags behind nation

by | September 15th, 2016 | Posted in Healthcare, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

New Census data shows Oklahoma made some progress in reducing the percentage of families living in poverty in 2015. In 2014, nearly one out of six Oklahomans (16.6 percent) were making less than the poverty line ($24,000 a year for a family of four) before taxes. In 2015, about 13,000 fewer Oklahomans were living below the poverty line, dropping our state’s poverty rate to 16.1 percent.

The official poverty rate for the United States as a whole fell even more, from 15.5 percent in 2014 to 14.7 percent in 2015. These improvements widened the gap between the percentage of Oklahomans and the percentage of all Americans living in poverty.


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At the intersection of hunger and health (Guest Post: Effie Craven)

by | September 6th, 2016 | Posted in Healthcare, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (1)

Effie Craven serves as the State Advocacy and Public Policy Director for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, where she advocates for programs and policies that promote access to nutritious foods and economic security for all Oklahomans.

Photo by Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

Photo by Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

In the food banking world, we frequently measure need in terms of “food insecurity.” Food insecurity is an economic condition describing a lack of adequate access to affordable, nutritious food. According to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap, there are more than 650,000 food insecure people in Oklahoma — about 1 in 6 Oklahomans. At the same time, rates of chronic disease like hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease remain high, and Oklahoma continues to have one of the highest obesity rates in the nation.

Chronic disease and food insecurity are intricately linked and often lead to a vicious cycle. As limited income is stretched further by an illness and families are forced to make difficult choices, food is often the only part of a budget with any flexibility. Because healthy food is typically more expensive and has a shorter shelf-life than processed foods, families may opt for cheaper, longer-lasting but nutrition-deficient foods.

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Oklahoma is missing a big opportunity to improve mental illness and addiction treatment

by | August 31st, 2016 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (2)

Therapist listening to her patientOne of the most successful ways that’s been found to help people escape from opioid addiction is through medications that partially mimic the effect of more dangerous opioids while causing less intoxication and less physical dependence. Despite the success of these medications, a continuing stigma around their use means that health care providers are often wary. Oklahoma’s health care leaders aim to fix that, which is why several doctors’ groups and state officials recently hosted a training on appropriate use of these drugs. With heroin overdose deaths on the rise, their efforts should be applauded.

But reducing the stigma among health care providers is not enough when many Oklahomans can’t afford to see a doctor in the first place. A 30-day supply of one of these drugs, Suboxone, runs more than $350, and a year of treatment, including appointments and counseling, can cost upwards of $10,000. Oklahoma, with its second-highest non-elderly uninsured rate in the US and a severely underfunded health care safety net, still leaves many without access to treatment.

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New report shows what Oklahoma’s missing by refusing Medicaid expansion

by | August 10th, 2016 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (3)

doctor taking health insurance card to patient

Three years ago, a central provision of the Affordable Care Act kicked in – the option for states to expand their Medicaid programs for the low-income uninsured via a substantial infusion of federal funds. While 31 states and Washington D.C. have expanded coverage to date, Oklahoma is one of 19 states still taking a “wait and see approach.”

The time for wait and see is over. A new report from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation has surveyed dozens of studies and found that expanding coverage yields significant coverage gains, grows access to care and utilization of health services, and improves state economies. Here are the report’s main findings:

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Oklahoma drug law enforcement agency moves toward ‘treatment option’ to combat addiction (Capitol Updates)

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 find past Capitol Updates archived  on his website.

There was an important announcement this week by leaders of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (OBNDD) that they would like to start offering a “treatment option,” in conjunction with the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS) for people who show up on their prescription monitoring program as serial purchasers of certain addictive drugs. You may remember the prescription monitoring program was created by legislation authored in 2015 by Rep. Doug Cox (R-Grove) and Sen. A.J. Griffin (R-Guthrie.) It requires pharmacists to report every prescription purchase of certain drugs to the PMP. Physicians are required to check the PMP before writing a first prescription of those drugs to any patient, and thereafter every 6 months before renewing a prescription.

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Despite improvements, Oklahoma’s health insurance marketplace enrollment lags

by | June 16th, 2016 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (0)

ASISTENCIA_MEDICAAmanda Rightler was an OK Policy intern. She recently graduated from the University of Tulsa with majors in chemistry and economics.

New national data shows that 90 percent of Americans had health insurance in 2015, due in large part to the Affordable Care Act. Between subsidized coverage and Medicaid expansion, the US uninsured rate is at its lowest recorded level ever. Unfortunately, Oklahoma is missing out: the decline in uninsured rate between 2014 and 2015 in our state was statistically insignificant.

This means Oklahomans aren’t realizing the benefits of broad access to health coverage the way other states’s residents are. Here’s why and what can be done to fix it.

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Waivers allow Oklahoma to experiment with Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act

by | June 15th, 2016 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

We’ve heard a lot about waivers recently: Lawmakers recently passed a bill authorizing the state to apply for an Affordable Care Act waiver. Lawmakers debated but ultimately did not approve a waiver plan to accept federal funds for covering the low-income uninsured. Concern sporadically surfaces over whether Oklahoma will lose our waiver to operate Insure Oklahoma. What does all this talk of waivers mean?

As a rule, for states to receive federal funding, they have to play by federal rules on how that funding is used. But in some cases, states can apply for waivers that, if approved, authorize them to bend the rules and use federal funds for purposes not explicitly permitted by federal regulations. Two kinds of waivers recently in the news are especially important for Oklahoma’s health care system: 1115 waivers and 1332 waivers.

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Food deserts are a big reason behind Oklahomans’ poor health

by | June 13th, 2016 | Posted in Healthcare, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (1)

Ethan Rex was an OK Policy spring intern. He is a sociology senior at the University of Tulsa and a research assistant with Women in Recovery, an alternative to incarceration for eligible women convicted of non-violent, drug-related offenses.

Earlier this year, Walmart announced the nationwide closure of 154 stores, causing concerns over how people will have access to groceries. Of the 154 nationwide closures, 6 stores have shut down in Oklahoma. In two cities where closures occurred, Luther and Okemah, residents now face the reality of living in a food desert.

These recent shutdowns echo a similar closure of a Walmart store in Tulsa in April 2015, which created a food desert spanning most of north Tulsa. The shutdown of that Walmart sparked local discussion about food security for low income residents. Food deserts have serious health and economic implications, and it is important to understand the problems caused by food deserts in order to form effective policy to combat them.

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