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Oklahoma’s plan for Medicaid work requirements is a dangerous experiment that will put the health of thousands of Oklahomans at risk (Guest post: Philip Rocco)

by | September 5th, 2018 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

Philip Rocco is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Marquette University and co-author of Obamacare Wars: Federalism, State Politics, and the Affordable Care Act (University Press of Kansas, 2016). This post is excerpted from a public comment authored by he and his colleagues.

The healthcare of thousands of Oklahomans is on the line this fall. That’s because Gov. Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma legislature have developed a plan to require low income parents or caregivers to work at least 20 hours a week in order to maintain their SoonerCare coverage. If the federal government approves the plan, it will place young parents, caregivers, and their children at risk of losing SoonerCare.

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How many Oklahomans would lose health coverage under reporting requirements? The state doesn’t say (Guest post: Dana Bacon)

by | August 9th, 2018 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (2)

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.

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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]

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Several issues divide medical marijuana advocates and regulators (Capitol Update)

by | July 30th, 2018 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Healthcare | 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.

I attended the first meeting of the marijuana working group last Wednesday and found it interesting. First, there was standing room only consisting mainly of proponents of medical marijuana. These folks worked hard for their victory and have no intention of allowing the political process to rob them of their success. They made it clear that their litmus test for regulating the industry is whether any proposed regulation limits access to the plant for medicinal purposes.

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Episode 34: No job? No doctor. (with Carly Putnam & Hannah Katch)

by | July 24th, 2018 | Posted in Healthcare, Podcast | Comments (0)

The OK PolicyCast is hosted by Gene Perry with production help from Jessica Vazquez. You can subscribe to our podcast on iTunesGoogle PlayStitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre. If you have any questions for the OK PolicyCast, topics you’d like us to cover, or people you want us to interview, you can reach us at

This year, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and the state Legislature ordered the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which runs Medicaid in Oklahoma, to come up with a plan to require Oklahoma adults on Medicaid to work at least 20 hours each week. If they don’t meet this requirement, or if they don’t do the paperwork to report their work or get an exemption in time, they will lose their Medicaid coverage and become uninsured.

OK Policy’s Carly Putnam has been doing a lot of work on this issue, and for this episode, I spoke with Carly and Hannah Katch of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, who’s been looking at this from a national perspective since the idea has been pushed in multiple states.

Right now public comments are being submitted about Oklahoma’s plan, and after the interview we read several of the comments that have been sent in so far. These do a great job of showing how real people’s lives would be affected if this is implemented. The comments are illuminating, and often heartbreaking.

After listening, you can learn more and take action by going to

You can download the episode here, subscribe at the links above, or play it in your browser:

Medical marijuana rule changes clearly the result of lobbying effort (Capitol Update)

by | July 16th, 2018 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Healthcare | Comments (5)

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.

In my opinion, the State Board of Health stubbed its toe last week with last minute changes to its published, proposed rules implementing the medical marijuana proposal just passed by vote of the people. The Oklahoma State Pharmaceutical Association along with the Oklahoma State Medical Association and the Oklahoma Hospital Association seemed to be at the forefront of the effort to get the Board of Health to amend its proposed rules.

The proponents of medical marijuana brought some of this on themselves by providing that the law would take effect only 30 days from the time of passage by the people. Laws passed by the legislature can only take effect 90 days after adjournment of the legislature unless an emergency clause is attached, which requires a 2/3 vote of both the House and Senate. This provision in the constitution gives the executive branch time to prepare for implementing the new law. But the State Health Department, knowing it had only 30 days, did a good job, up to the time its board met, of anticipating the need for the rules and preparing and publishing proposed rules.

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Waiver proposal is a threat to health care for thousands of Oklahoma parents and caretakers

by | July 6th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (2)

Thousands of Oklahoma families are able to see a doctor or fill a prescription because of the state’s Medicaid program, SoonerCare. But instead of working to strengthen this proven, cost-effective program, Oklahoma is asking the federal government for permission to cut off Oklahoma parents and caretakers who don’t report working enough hours every week. SoonerCare was built to ensure that low-income families get essential health care, not to punish families for losing a job or missing some paperwork. The state’s new proposal is unworkable and should be withdrawn.

The proposal creates serious problems for Oklahoma families, with or without jobs. Most non-elderly adult Medicaid enrollees work, but they have low-wage jobs that generally do not offer health insurance and are often unstable, with frequent job losses and work hours that can fluctuate sharply from month to month. As a result, many working parents would be at risk of losing coverage for one or more months under this proposal.

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Now that Oklahoma’s federal Medicaid funding is climbing, let’s not repeat past mistakes

by | June 29th, 2018 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

For Oklahoma families to prosper, they must be able to take advantage of work and educational opportunities. But working or doing well in school is much, much harder without consistent access to health care. SoonerCare, Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, provides that needed care for more than one million low-income Oklahomans every year, two in three of whom are children. SoonerCare is an effective, efficient system that is funded by a combination of state and federal dollars. This year, Oklahoma was able to reverse a years-long trend of cuts and increase the rates paid by SoonerCare to doctors and other care providers. After this spring’s legislative sessions, the state’s key health care agencies were able to reverse a years-long trend and increase payments to care providers. These rate increases were possible in part because Oklahoma’s federal Medicaid funding is increasing.

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New KIDS COUNT Data Book ranks Oklahoma near the worst in the nation for child well-being

A new report shows the youngest generation of Oklahomans face far-reaching challenges. The state ranks near the bottom in the nation for most measures of child well-being, according to the 2018 KIDS COUNT® Data Book released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Overall, the report ranks Oklahoma 44th out of all 50 states for child well-being. Even in areas where Oklahoma has seen the most improvement recently, we’re not keeping up with the progress in other states. We have a high percentage of kids scoring below proficient in reading and math, a high rate of teen births, hundreds of thousands of kids living in poverty, and tens of thousands without health insurance. The 2018 Data Book shows that while Oklahoma has improved on some measures of child well-being, we still have a lot of work to do.

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A connection between the nation’s highest incarceration and refusal to expand Medicaid? (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.

The latest state-by-state comparison for incarceration rates drew headlines in Oklahoma because we are now number one in incarceration. Rounding out the top ten after Oklahoma are Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Arkansas, Texas, Arizona, Kentucky and Missouri. A quick view at the list suggested the question of whether there is a correlation between incarceration rates and Medicaid expansion, so I decided to look.

I found that six of the ten highest incarcerating states have refused to expand Medicaid coverage: Oklahoma, Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Texas and Missouri. Louisiana adopted a “demonstration” version of expansion like the Arkansas plan, effective July 1, 2016. Since then it has dropped from Number one to Number two. Arkansas, on March 4, 2014 adopted its private option version of Medicaid expansion. Arizona adopted a private option version of Medicaid expansion but 42 percent of the state’s 773,000 uninsured are eligible but not enrolled in Medicaid due to certain barriers; Kentucky had one of the more successful transitions to Medicaid expansion although it recently changed to a private option plan.

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