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Lawmakers’ attacks on health coverage of low-income parents could devastate Oklahoma families

by | March 14th, 2018 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (1)

For years, we’ve advocated expanding access to health coverage for low-income adults in Oklahoma. More than 30 states have done so, and in the process have dropped their uninsured rates, increased access to needed care, and pulled rural hospitals onto better footing. However, this year Oklahoma legislators seem determined to move in the opposite direction, pushing for radical new restrictions to the state’s basic health coverage program for low-income adults. That’s exactly the wrong thing to do. Here’s why.

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Legislature should resist efforts to weaken agency independence

by | March 8th, 2018 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (1)

Are Oklahomans better served by state agencies that preserve their independence or that are more directly subject to the Governor’s control? That’s the key question for Oklahoma legislators this session as they consider a series of bills that would fundamentally alter the appointment and governing authority for some of the state’s largest agencies.

Currently, most major agencies are governed by boards or commissions, with the Governor, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and President Pro Tem of the Senate sharing appointment authority for board members. These boards have the authority to appoint and dismiss agency directors, as well as adopt the formal rules governing the agency’s operations, subject to review by the Governor and Legislature.

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Bill Watch: Legislation threatens to cut Oklahomans’ access to health care

by | February 15th, 2018 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (2)

This post is the third in a series highlighting key bills in several issues areas that we’re following. Previous posts looked at legislation affecting economic opportunity for Oklahoma families and legislation to reform our criminal justice system.

A greater share of Oklahomans are uninsured than almost any other state, and our comparatively poor health has serious economic consequences. One might hope that Oklahoma’s legislators would be working this session to make sure more Oklahomans, not fewer, have access to health care. Unfortunately, some lawmakers have instead filed bills that would yank health coverage from low-income parents  and repeat failed experiments of the past. 

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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.

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Our top priorities in Oklahoma’s 2018 legislative session

With the 2018 legislative session fast approaching, today we released OK Policy’s top policy priorities for the coming year.

OK Policy is committed to supporting fair and adequate funding of public services and expanded economic opportunity for all Oklahomans through research and advocacy. During the 2018 legislative session, we will work with lawmakers, community partners, and concerned citizens to promote an ambitious but achievable policy agenda in the areas of budget and taxes, economic opportunity and security, education, criminal justice, and health care.

We have identified the following issues as our top 2018 policy priorities. These are the issues on which we expect to devote the bulk of our energy and resources and to play a leading role in working with legislators in favor of good legislation and in opposition to harmful legislation. Our priority issues were selected based on numerous criteria, including their consistency with our mission, our experience and expertise on the issue, their importance for the citizens of Oklahoma, and our likelihood of success.  There are many other issues on which we expect to conduct research and contribute to policy campaigns, and issues may move on or off our top priority list as events unfold.

You can read a summary of all of our priorities here, or follow the links below for more detailed explanations. As the Legislative session develops, you can also check our advocacy alerts page to hear about ways to take action on these priorities, and check out our advocacy toolkit for more resources to stay informed and get involved during the legislative session.

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Oklahoma ​should avoid the temptation to pass new Medicaid​ restrictions​

by | January 18th, 2018 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (1)

Recently the Trump Administration opened the door to serious new restrictions on Medicaid by announcing they would allow and encourage states to impose ​employment and other “community engagement” requirements on working-age adults. Ten states have already submitted requests to do so, although just one state, Kentucky, has been approved so far.

Oklahoma lawmakers might be tempted to follow suit. They shouldn’t be. Most Medicaid-eligible adults who can work already do, and ​most of the rest have barriers to employment ​that ​a work requirement won’t fix. ​Restricting Medicaid with a work requirement ​would create expensive new bureaucracy and ​prevent Oklahomans from getting important care without paying off in any significant savings for the state.

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Our 10 most popular posts in 2017

by | December 28th, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Budget, Education, Healthcare | Comments (1)


When it comes to Oklahoma politics, 2017 was one of the most tumultuous and unpredictable in history. The year was consumed by a long, still unresolved showdown over the state budget and need for new revenues, with shifting coalitions, unusual alliances, and numerous high stakes votes. Throughout the year we did our best to keep you informed and provide the information you need to advocate for constructive solutions. Of all the articles we published on our blog this year, these were the 10 most popular:

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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.

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The doomsday scenario has already begun — but it can be stopped

by | November 13th, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (3)

Twenty-five elderly Oklahomans lost their home early last week when Wynnewood Care Center closed

After taking years of reimbursement cuts and expecting more to come, the small skilled-nursing facility in Wynnewood had to shut down and move residents into other facilities in neighboring counties. 

Then on Thursday, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) voted to cut daily reimbursements to nursing homes, residential facilities housing people with intellectual disabilities, and nursing facilities for people with AIDS by 4 percent. They also voted to cut payments to most Medicaid providers by 9 percent. Unless lawmakers pass a budget deal that fills all or most of the $70 million hole in OHCA’s budget triggered when the state Supreme Court struck down an unconstitutional cigarette tax, these cuts will take effect on December 1. 

Similarly, although state-funded in-home care isn’t scheduled to expire until December 1, thousands of Oklahomans with disabilities and their caregivers are scrambling now to find alternatives. Nearly 189,000 Oklahomans who manage mental illness and addiction through state services are in a similar boat; nearly all outpatient service are scheduled to cease on December 1. While $23 million from the Rainy Day Fund may allow them to delay those cuts for a few weeks, the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services still has a $50 million budget hole to contend with.  

If lawmakers can come to an agreement in time, these cuts can be stopped — but as Wynnewood’s closure shows, a lot of damage has already been done. 

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Oklahomans have from now until December 15 to get health insurance for 2018

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

Photo via

This post is by OK Policy intern Lydia Lapidus. Lydia is a recent graduate from George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs with a concentration in International Politics.

Fall is here, and the online marketplace is up and running with options that won’t eat into your pumpkin spice budget. This year’s shortened open enrollment period will span from November 1st to December 15th, 2017, with coverage beginning on January 1st. (Note: Members of a federally-recognized American Indian tribe are exempt from these deadlines and can enroll on at any time of the year.)

Whether you need to get insured, switch plans, or re-enroll, here is some information to help.

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