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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.

poverty-2008-2015

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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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Highs and lows of Oklahoma’s 2016 legislative session

The 2016 session began with some high hopes and grave concerns given the state’s massive budget shortfall. Prior to session, OK Policy laid out our top priorities in the areas of budget and taxes, health care, education, criminal justice, economic opportunity, and voting and elections. A few of our priorities met with success, many did not, and there were more than a few surprises along the way.  Here’s our staff’s recap of the major highs and lows of the 2016 session in the issue areas in which we were most deeply engaged.

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Proposed budget will add to the cost of mental illness in Oklahoma

by | May 26th, 2016 | Posted in Budget, Healthcare | Comments (1)

Terri White, Commissioner of the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (ODMHSAS), has frequently said that mental health has never been adequately funded in Oklahoma. The state ranks 44th in the nation for mental health spending per capita, and hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans aren’t receiving needed treatment for mental illness. The Legislature’s proposed 2017 budget shows no sign of bucking either trend.

Oklahoma’s midyear revenue failures prompted nearly $23 million in cuts by ODMHSAS. Just over $4 million was cut from agency administration, while the rest fell in three areas: cuts to providers, reductions in services, and a postponed mental health court expansion. These cuts eliminated or reduced services for tens of thousands of Oklahomans, moved those services further out of reach for thousands more, and meant less preventive screenings and early intervention.

The FY 2017 budget restores $7 million of the Department’s mid-year cuts, but it still leaves the agency $16 million below this year’s initial funding level and even further below what is needed to pay for services in the coming year. Lawmakers’ failure to meet core funding needs for mental health care will leave thousands of Oklahomans without access to needed care.

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