What Was the Biggest Oklahoma Health Story of 2014? (The Oklahoman)

By Jaclyn Cosgrove

“While Ebola grabbed the headlines, there was both good news and bad news that impacted more people’s lives in Oklahoma. One example of good news, as a result of multiple partners working together, our infant mortality rate is the lowest in Oklahoma history, meaning more babies will be alive to share that celebration of their first year with their parents; great news. Bad news is we don’t see that same level of professional partnership around prescription drug abuse, and we continue to lose hundreds and hundreds of people every year to prescription drugs. The single most effective tool, full use of the prescription drug monitoring program by physicians, has been opposed repeatedly by the associations that represent physicians. If these groups worked together and did their share, as the groups did on reducing infant mortality, we could once again save huge amounts of human tragedy” — Terry Cline, state health commissioner and Oklahoma’s health and human services secretary

“There were two stories that I thought took center stage this year — the federal government’s renewal of Insure Oklahoma for 2015 and the announcement that Oklahoma’s 2013 infant mortality rate was the lowest it has been in 34 years. Those announcements demonstrate progress toward the healthier Oklahoma that we work for on a daily basis.” — Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO Nico Gomez

“The landmark ruling in the Hobby Lobby lawsuit was the biggest health-related story of 2014. The United States Supreme Court ruled that closely-held, private businesses cannot be forced to comply with Affordable Care Act-mandated contraceptive methods for their employees. I praise this decision, which ultimately protects business owners from being forced by the government to violate their religious beliefs in order to comply with the Affordable Care Act. This victory upholds religious liberties not just here in Oklahoma, but across the U.S.” — John Doak, Oklahoma insurance commissioner

“While the Ebola epidemic captured headlines, the biggest story in Oklahoma health this year was the ongoing and alarming rates of uninsured people in our state. During this same year — 2014 — the state Legislature cut funding for mental health services and primary and preventative care for the uninsured while being unwilling to expand Medicaid to almost 250,000 people, the majority of whom work but have no employer health insurance. We seem to know what we are against — a great story in 2015 would be knowing what we are for.” — Lou Carmichael, Variety Care CEO

“Oklahoma is receiving national attention for the growth of direct care arrangements between doctors, patients and employers. Direct care arrangements are resulting in patients being able to trust they will be cared for, not just covered.” — Jonathan Small, executive vice president at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs

“The biggest health story of the year is our elected leaders’ continued failure to expand health insurance coverage to over 100,000 uninsured Oklahomans. Our obstinate refusal to accept 100 percent federal funding because the money is tied to the Affordable Care Act is a distressing example of partisan politics obstructing what is clearly in the state’s best interests.” — David Blatt, Oklahoma Policy Institute executive director

“In my view, the biggest Oklahoma health story of 2014 was the clear agreement among the three boards of health, the state and the boards for Oklahoma City and Tulsa, that in order to improve Oklahoma’s poor health status, we must take steps to reduce smoking and to further reduce exposure to secondhand smoke for non smokers. This should be a public health priority in 2015.” — Gary Raskob, dean of the OU College of Public Health and Oklahoma City-County Health Department board member

“Despite the continued development of several key concerns surrounding state funding for Medicaid and the overall cost of care hospitals incur treating the uninsured, I’d have to say the sudden, emergent demand placed upon hospitals to prepare and implement proper screening and treatment protocols for the management of Ebola patients was the top health care news event in Oklahoma and across the nation. For a two- to three-week period of time, administrative and clinical support services were consumed with learning of and complying with ongoing changes in national guidelines based upon ‘real-time’ lessons learned during that same period. Addressing the general public’s and news media’s reaction to these developments compounded the challenges of carrying out normal hospital operations during this crisis.” — Craig Jones, Oklahoma Hospital Association president

“The most powerful health care story of 2014 was told in October after Michael Tate Reed destroyed the Ten Commandments monument on the state Capitol grounds. As word spread about the event, the former Victory Bible College student went from being accused of being a Satanist to becoming a symbol of those struggling with untreated serious mental illness. I hope Michael’s story reminds those at the Capitol that we don’t have enough community-based outpatient care and beds in this state to cover the critical need for services.” — Michael Brose, Mental Health Association Oklahoma executive director

“The new information in (the) 50th Anniversary Surgeon General’s Report on the Health Consequences of Smoking, released in 2014, was significant and affirmed that smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke continues to be hazardous and is now conclusively linked to several diseases including heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. In spite of 50 years of overwhelming evidence of the harms of smoking and second-hand smoke, and the tobacco industry’s internal documents detailing their efforts to deliberately mislead the public, smoking remains Oklahoma’s leading cause of preventable death.” — Tracey Strader, Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust executive director


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