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Even doctors depend on the Affordable Care Act (Guest post: Sabine Brown)

by | February 21st, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

Sabine Brown is a political activist, physician assistant, and mother of two.

One in three Oklahomans have a pre-existing condition that could have been used to deny them health insurance coverage prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). My husband, Eric, is one of those Oklahomans.

When my husband was a small child, he was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma. He was treated at St. Jude’s hospital in Memphis. Although his treatments and back and forth trips from Oklahoma City were rough, he has good memories of the staff that took care of him. One memory that stuck with him is a doctor who wrote an order for him to have pizza every day when that was the only food he would tolerate during chemotherapy treatments. The experience ultimately inspired him to become a doctor himself.

Eric started medical school in 2003, which coincided with the time he could no longer be on his parent’s insurance plan. He started filling our applications for private insurance. The rejections letters rolled in. No one would accept him because of his previous cancer diagnosis.

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Don’t go there: Block grants for Medicaid and SNAP could wreck America’s safety net

by | February 7th, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

A fundamental part of the American social contract is that when times get tough, we help our friends and neighbors out. In Oklahoma, the biggest ways that we do this is through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) and SoonerCare, Oklahoma’s Medicaid program. Each of these programs help hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans get on their feet and stay there every year.

However, Congressional Republicans are pushing to end these programs and replace them with block grants in order to cut federal spending, possibly by as early as this summer. Block grants would threaten to dismantle effective, efficient anti-poverty programs and leave Oklahoma families without access to adequate food or medical care.

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New issue brief assesses benefits of increasing access to long-acting reversible contraceptives

by | January 25th, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

The decision of when and whether to have children is one of the most consequential choices a family can make. When better able to plan pregnancies and births, women attain more education, earn higher incomes, and have stronger marriages.

Unfortunately, Oklahoma’s unplanned and teen pregnancy rate is among the highest in the country – and that presents a number of challenging outcomes, including high costs, for individuals, families, and communities.

​A new issue brief from Oklahoma Policy Institute assesses a promising pilot project that is showing success in preventing teen pregnancy. ​Tulsa’s Take Control Initiative has shown that long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARC) are a smart option for Oklahoma women and teens. The Take Control Initiative has proven effective in reducing Tulsa County’s teen birth rate, and initiatives across the country show similar outcomes. As one of the most effective forms of birth control, greater LARC use has been a key element in reducing unintended pregnancies across the US.

LARC’s effectiveness​ strongly demonstrates why Oklahoma and the U.S. should continue policies requiring insurers to provide access to this treatment at no cost ​to patients. Despite recent, relative increases, LARC use is still relatively low compared to other, less-effective forms of birth control, and Oklahoma’s teen pregnancy rate is one of the highest in the country. This points to the need for continued efforts to protect and expand access to LARC throughout Oklahoma. Oklahoma families deserve nothing less.

You can read the full report here.

Affordable Care Act repeal plans threaten chaos for Oklahomans’ health care

by | January 11th, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (3)

Repealing the Affordable Care Act has been a hallmark of Republican platforms since the signature health care reform law passed in 2010. Now, with the GOP holding both houses of Congress as well as the White House, efforts have already begun for Congress to make good on its promises to get rid of the Affordable Care Act (ACA): a resolution filed in the first full day of Congress of 2017 formally kick-started the process, and it will likely be voted on late tonight or early tomorrow. Although significant uncertainty surrounds both repeal and whatever might come after, we have some idea of what both could look like – and what they mean for Oklahoma.

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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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