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How many Oklahomans would lose health coverage under reporting requirements? The state doesn’t say

by | August 9th, 2018 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (1)

Dana Bacon

Dana Bacon serves as regional director of government affairs for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

As required by both executive order and state law, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) released an 1115 Medicaid waiver proposal for SoonerCare on July 3. Oklahoma hopes to join a handful of states in requiring some adults on Medicaid to report their work-related activities to the state, without any misunderstandings or technical glitches, or risk losing their health coverage.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), like many patient advocacy groups and other organizations with an interest in health care, has deep concerns about Medicaid reporting requirements such as these. LLS has adopted a set of Principles for Meaningful Coverage to help us judge the value of health care reform ideas. We embrace ideas that would improve access, quality, affordability, and stability in health care, and discourage ideas that would make it harder for patients to get the life-changing care they need.

continue reading How many Oklahomans would lose health coverage under reporting requirements? The state doesn’t say

Oklahoma’s Proposed Work Rule Would Harm Mothers and Children (Guest post: Joan Alker)

by | August 7th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (4)

Joan Alker is the Executive Director of the Center for Children and Families and a Research Professor at the Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy

Oklahoma has one of the highest uninsured rates for children in the nation, and the state will likely make matters worse if it gets a green light from CMS to go through with a plan to impose more red tape requirements on poor parents.

Oklahoma is seeking approval to amend its Section 1115 demonstration waiver to impose a work or community service requirement on Medicaid beneficiaries with incomes at or below 45% of the federal poverty level. These are families whose income is no more than $779 a month for a family of three. Parents of children under 6 years old would be exempt but it is unclear how a parent would claim such an exemption. The state itself projects that the vast majority of parents who would be impacted by this new proposal are very low income – below 20% of the poverty line, just $346 a month for a family of three.[1]

continue reading Oklahoma’s Proposed Work Rule Would Harm Mothers and Children (Guest post: Joan Alker)

Why shouldn’t women be allowed to talk about wages with their co-workers? (Guest Post: Liz Waggoner)

Liz Waggoner

Liz Waggoner is the Executive Director of the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition, the state’s leading advocacy organization for women and girls.

You might have missed it, but April 10th was Equal Pay Day in the United States.  Equal Pay Day indicates how far into the current year women must work to earn what men made in the previous year; in other words, women must work for 15 and half months to earn what a man earns in 12 months. This day exists because the gender wage gap is still a reality – in Oklahoma, women working full-time, year round earn just 77 percent of what men earn. Though multiple factors contribute to gender pay disparities, one of the reasons women make less than men is wage discrimination – employers paying women less than their male colleagues for the same job. It’s been illegal since 1963, but it can happen easily when wage and pay information is a secret.

continue reading Why shouldn’t women be allowed to talk about wages with their co-workers? (Guest Post: Liz Waggoner)

In a potential teacher walkout, communities must step up to fill the nutrition gap (Guest post: Brent Sadler)

by | March 29th, 2018 | Posted in Children and Families, Education | Comments (0)

Brent Sadler is Vice President of Community Investments for the Tulsa Area United Way.

With the potential for a teacher walkout on the horizon, one of our greatest concerns is food insecurity for our most vulnerable citizens – our children.  In Oklahoma, nearly 24 percent of all children live in food-insecure households, and 62 percent of Oklahoma public school students are enrolled in a free or reduced-price meal program.

The Tulsa Area United Way service area includes Tulsa, Creek, Wagoner, Osage, Rogers and Okmulgee counties, where the number of children eligible for free and reduced price meals program exceeds 98,000 students. This includes 30,000 eligible students in Tulsa Public Schools alone.  Without school, many students are at risk of being hungry.

continue reading In a potential teacher walkout, communities must step up to fill the nutrition gap (Guest post: Brent Sadler)

New Oklahoma STABLE accounts will make it easier for Oklahomans with disabilities to save for the future (Guest Post: Amy Smith)

by | March 28th, 2018 | Posted in Financial Security | Comments (2)

Amy Smith, an OK Policy Summer Policy Institute alumna, is a graduate student in Disability Studies and an intern in the LEND (Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities) program at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. She lives in Ada with her husband and the three of her four children who haven’t yet flown the coop.

Update (06/01/18): Oklahoma’s STABLE accounts are now available here

Most all of us understand the importance of saving money for the future, and that understanding leads many of us to take advantage of tax-free savings and retirement plans such as 401(k)s, Roth IRAs, and 529 college savings plans. But for the 4.5 million disabled adults relying on SSI (Supplemental Security Income) payments, saving money for the future has been discouraged until the recent passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act.

That’s because SSI has an asset cap: if recipients have more than $2,000 in assets (including savings), they lose their benefits. This cap makes SSI different from traditional Social Security payments, which are reduced if income or savings exceed a certain amount. With traditional Social Security payments, you still get the benefit, but it’s smaller as your assets increase. But SSI benefits are not adjusted down; they are simply cancelled if you exceed the asset cap. 

Living under this asset cap made it impossible for SSI recipients to do something as simple as save up the money required to move into their own apartments, for example. $2,000 isn’t always enough to cover first and last month’s rent plus a security deposit for someone trying to move into their own apartment. It also doesn’t allow much for furniture, daily transportation, or out-of-pocket medical expenses. Saving for an emergency was out of the question. Staying under the $2,000 limit created a “spend-down” mentality where money had to be spent on something, anything, in order to keep receiving critical benefits.

continue reading New Oklahoma STABLE accounts will make it easier for Oklahomans with disabilities to save for the future (Guest Post: Amy Smith)

Capital gains deduction is an expensive loophole benefiting a small number of Oklahomans (Guest post: Cynthia Rogers, Ph.D)

by | February 26th, 2018 | Posted in Taxes | Comments (3)

Cynthia Rogers

Cynthia Rogers, PhD, is a professor of economics at the University of Oklahoma and a commissioner on the State of Oklahoma’s Incentive Evaluation Commission.

The Capital Gains Tax Deduction allows Oklahoma taxpayers to avoid paying taxes on income from the sale of Oklahoma real estate or stock in an Oklahoma-based firm where the assets have been held for a sufficient period (68 OS § 2358). The goal of the deduction seems to be to promote investment and access to capital for Oklahoma-based firms.

In an analysis for the state’s Incentive Evaluation Commission, PFM Group Consulting, LLC recommended that the capital gains tax deduction be eliminated. PFM concluded that the program cannot be shown to generate a positive return on investment for the state with the available data. As an IEC commissioner and an economist, I agree.

continue reading Capital gains deduction is an expensive loophole benefiting a small number of Oklahomans (Guest post: Cynthia Rogers, Ph.D)

Lunch shaming is real – but we can end it (Guest Post: Effie Craven)

Effie Craven is the State Advocacy and Public Policy Director for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

Imagine you are a child waiting in the school lunch line with your friends.  You laugh and joke as you move through the line and get your trays, enjoying the break from class.  But when you get to the cashier and scan your meal card, there is not enough money for your lunch.  Your tray is taken from you – your hot meal is thrown away and replaced by a cheese sandwich as your classmates look on.

Practices like this, known as lunch shaming, are all too common in schools. And these practices are emotionally damaging to children, who have no control over their family’s financial situation and are often facing food insecurity at home as well. One in four Oklahoma children has inconsistent access to adequate, healthy food. The National School Breakfast and School Lunch Programs provide critical nutrition support to more than 425,000 Oklahoma children every year, but many students are either not eligible or not enrolled in the free and reduced price school meals programs.

continue reading Lunch shaming is real – but we can end it (Guest Post: Effie Craven)

Don’t ask Oklahomans to step down from guiding state agencies (Guest post: RoseAnn Duplan, Wanda Felty, and Erin Taylor)

by | February 8th, 2018 | Posted in Children and Families, Healthcare | Comments (2)

RoseAnn Duplan, Wanda Felty, and Erin Taylor are advocates for families on the DDS (Developmental Disabilities Services) Waiting List.

As parents of adult children with developmental disabilities, we’ve earned seven decades of experience.   We’re familiar with programs and supports other families rarely need: TEFRA, assistive technology, and Medicaid waivers, to name just a few. As family advocates, we’ve served on numerous oversight bodies evaluating state policies that serve family members like ours.  Boards and commissions afford consumers of agency services some decision-making influence.

Yet, as early as this week, legislators are poised to hear a special session bill, HB 1027XX,  that would eliminate boards and commissions at the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OKHCA), Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuses Services (ODMHSAS), and several other agencies.  Current boards and commissions would devolve to agency advisory committees with no formal authority. HB 1027 would grant the Governor sole authority to appoint or terminate agency leadership at OKHCA, ODMHSAS, and a half dozen more agencies. This is one of the proposals being promoted by Step Up Oklahoma.

continue reading Don’t ask Oklahomans to step down from guiding state agencies (Guest post: RoseAnn Duplan, Wanda Felty, and Erin Taylor)

Spending labeled ‘non-instruction’ is wrongly characterized as waste (Guest post: Senator Ron Sharp)

by | December 6th, 2017 | Posted in Education | Comments (1)

Senator Ron Sharp

Senator Ron Sharp is a Republican representing Senate District 17, which includes parts of Oklahoma and Pottawatomie counties. Senator Sharp is now in his sixth year in office. He is Vice Chair of the Senate Education Committee.

Governor Fallin has requested through an Executive Order that the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) submit a report showing non-instructional costs compared to instructional costs of the state’s 515 public school districts. This report is due to her office by September 2018.

Legislators debated during special session that before additional revenue is raised, any waste in spending should be eliminated. One concern by some legislators was the lack of efficiency of public school districts that were not using at least 60 percent of state funding on classroom instruction. Gov. Fallin used this 60 percent mark in her Executive Order.

The purpose of this report requested by the Governor is to consider the forced consolidation of school districts that fail to meet the 60 percent instructional threshold. However, there is a problem.

continue reading Spending labeled ‘non-instruction’ is wrongly characterized as waste (Guest post: Senator Ron Sharp)

On World AIDS Day, a call to speak up

by | December 1st, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

Andy Moore is the Clinic Administrator for the Infectious Diseases Institute at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, organizer of the OKC AIDS Coalition, and member of the board of trustees for the Oklahoma AIDS Care Fund.

In June of 1981, five men walked into a Los Angeles emergency room and were diagnosed with a rare type of skin cancer called Kaposi’s Sarcoma. Over the next several months, dozens more presented with either KS or a similarly rare type of pneumonia, pneumocystis carinii. Questions swirled even as words like “wasting,” “AIDS,” and “death” became used with increased frequency on the evening news. By 1995, more than half a million people in the U.S. were infected with HIV. Today, that number is closer to 1.2 million, including an estimated 6,000 Oklahomans.

A lot has changed over the 36 years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. What began as an unknown virus with no treatment that killed patients within a few years is now an intensely-studied, well-understood, chronic infection that can be managed by multiple advanced medication regimens that are tailored to the individual patient. Testing for the disease can be done for as little as $5 and as quickly as one minute, making outreach and diagnosis easier than ever. Smartphones and social media enable the public to find testing and treatment near them by simply sending a text. And due to these advancements in prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, people are living with HIV not just for years, but for decades.

continue reading On World AIDS Day, a call to speak up

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