Skip to Content

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.

Continue Reading »

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.

Continue Reading »

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.

Continue Reading »

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.

Continue Reading »

Amid budget deadlock, a reminder of what’s at stake

At the state Capitol, lawmakers remain deadlocked over how to find enough revenue to avoid crippling budget scenarios. The main barrier appears to be legislative leadership’s refusal to allow a vote on removing huge tax breaks for oil and gas producers. On Wednesday night, oil and gas industry lobbyists preemptively held an end-of-session party for lawmakers, but without a budget deal the session may not end anytime soon.

Meanwhile, school districts left in the dark about what their budgets will look like next year have already begun to make cuts. Tulsa Public Schools approved a plan to close three schools and lay off 37 teachers; Oklahoma City is increasing class sizes and selling their administration building; Woodward is shutting down a summer program and cutting staff; Muskogee is ending a popular STEM program. These cuts are only the latest in what is approaching a decade of squeezed education funding — students in 1st grade when we started cutting funding are now high school freshmen. More than 200 schools across the state have already gone to a 4-day school week, and dozens of school districts are looking at or have already shortened their school year.

Continue Reading »

HB 1270 adds bureaucratic hurdles for Oklahoma families and won’t generate promised savings

Earlier this spring, we warned that HB 1270 would grow administrative waste and punish poor families by requiring substantially more rigorous and more frequent verification procedures for families applying for SNAP (food stamps) and Medicaid (SoonerCare). Following public outcry, HB 1270 has been pared back to only apply to SoonerCare, with a provision excepting some individuals with significant disabilities. However, HB 1270 is still an expensive, unnecessary bill that would put access to basic health care for Oklahoma families at risk. Here’s how.

Continue Reading »

Extended family leave for new parents would boost economy while addressing some of Oklahoma’s worst health rankings

Too many Oklahoma parents face an impossible choice – continue to work full-time and miss precious opportunities to bond with a new child, or leave work and put their finances and career at risk. Oklahomans shouldn’t face this choice.  New parents should be able to take leave to bond with and care for a new child without putting their family’s future at risk.

Senate Bill 549, which has passed the Senate and is scheduled for a hearing tomorrow in the House Business, Commerce, and Tourism Committee, is a good first step in the modernization of family leave in Oklahoma. [UPDATE: SB 549 passed committee with a 14-0 vote and will next go to the full House.] Under federal law, most American workers are allowed 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child, and several states have provided further paid or unpaid leave. SB 549 would extend that to 20 weeks of unpaid leave for Oklahoma’s state employees.

Continue Reading »

SB 478​ would roll back autism coverage, allow worthless plans disguised as insurance​

by | April 3rd, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (2)

For years, families caring for ​children with autism fought for a state law that would require insurers to cover the necessary treatments for their child. Last year, with the passage of HB 2962, Oklahoma became the 44th state to require meaningful autism coverage with HB 2962. Rep. Jason Nelson (R-Oklahoma City), the bill’s author, called it a “life-changing law” and said he was “happy to have played a small part in helping these families access the vital autism therapies and treatments their children need.” 

That was then. This year, lawmakers have introduced a bill that would undo that hard fought victory, and bring many other bad consequences for Oklahomans who need health care. SB 478 by Sen. Bill Brown (R-Broken Arrow) and Rep. Lewis Moore (R-Arcadia) would exempt insurers from all state mandates on their product, including autism coverage. By allowing both in- and out-of-state insurers to sell coverage that doesn’t comply with Oklahoma’s required insurance benefits, SB 478 would leave Oklahoma enrollees exposed to significant risk while increasing the costs and premiums for families who need or want more comprehensive coverage. Here’s how.

Continue Reading »

DHS Director: Oklahoma budget cut scenarios range “from the terrible to the unthinkable”

OKDHS Director Ed Lake

Unless lawmakers find new revenues to close their budget shortfall, Oklahoma is looking at unprecedented cuts to the most basic services of state government, including those for the most vulnerable seniors, children, and people with disabilities. Even before next year’s budget, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) will run out of money in May to pay for in-home care of 25,000 seniors and individuals with severe disabilities unless the Legislature acts quickly to provide supplemental funds.

Yesterday, OKDHS Director Ed Lake sent a message to all employees of the agency stating that further cuts would threaten the elimination of entire programs serving very vulnerable adults and children. The cuts could even undo the progress made under court order to improve our child welfare system. Here is Director Lake’s message in full:

Continue Reading »

Oklahoma DHS is about to run out of money to pay for care of vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities

by | March 22nd, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (11)

There are honest arguments and discussions to be had about the place and role of government. However, we generally agree that the government has an important role in protecting the lives and health of Americans who aren’t able to protect themselves, including those who are elderly or have significant disabilities.

However, in Oklahoma, years of budget cuts have now compromised our Department of Human Services’ ability to fulfill this core function of government. As a result, thousands of Oklahomans who are elderly or have disabilities could lose access to vital services in just a few months. Without a supplemental appropriation, DHS doesn’t have the funds to pay providers for the care of more than 25,000 Oklahomans after April.

Continue Reading »

  1. Pages:
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3
  5. 4
  6. 5
  7. 6
  8. 7
  9. ...
  10. 26