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

by | July 16th, 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.

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 The state’s new proposal is unworkable and should be withdrawn.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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Many devils in the details as Oklahoma moves toward a Medicaid work requirement

by | May 22nd, 2018 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

Earlier this month, Gov. Fallin signed HB 2932, directing the state to apply for federal permission to be allowed to remove low-income parents from health care coverage for failing to work enough hours in a given week. This comes on the heels of an executive order the Governor signed in March directing the state Medicaid agency, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, to explore such a waiver.

We’ve warned before of the pitfalls of implementing a work requirement for SoonerCare coverage. However, with Oklahoma now committed to developing such a proposal, it is vitally important that policymakers proceed with caution. A work requirement in Oklahoma will affect tens of thousands of struggling parents, as well as their children and families. Furthermore, no other state has yet implemented such a requirement, and the Medicaid programs of states whose plans have been approved differ significantly from Oklahoma’s. Oklahoma administrators will need to tread very carefully to ensure that Oklahoma does not create more barriers to health and employment in implementing their work requirement.

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OK PolicyCast Episode 29: What Just Happened

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The OK PolicyCast is back! In this episode, we look at what just happened in one of the most tumultuous legislative years in Oklahoma history. Bailey Perkins speaks about what it was like being at the state Capitol before, during, and after the teacher walkout. Carly Putnam shares some major developments in health care policy. And Ryan Gentzler talks about this year’s most important criminal justice legislation, both the good and the bad.

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

Bill Watch: This year in #okleg

Last week, the Oklahoma legislature adjourned one of the more extraordinary legislative sessions in recent memory – one that followed one special session, ran partially concurrently with another, included nine days of protests at the Capitol, saw the Legislature raise revenues for the first time in nearly 30 years, witnessed a first step in criminal justice reform after years of efforts, and resulted in the largest funding bill in state history (although not if adjusted for inflation). But in all of the confusion and breaking news, it was easy to miss other developments. In the posts below, brief summaries by issue area lay out the major victories and defeats of this spring’s legislative session.

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With new work requirements, health care coverage for Oklahomans without internet access is at risk

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

Aaron Krusniak is an OK Policy intern and a third-year Computer Science major at the University of Tulsa with a focus in cybersecurity and smart urban planning.

Between recently passed legislation and an Executive Order, Oklahoma is moving quickly to enact a policy allowing the state to kick low-income parents off their SoonerCare coverage if they fail to work for enough hours in a given week. Oklahoma officials must now develop a specific proposal to implement this idea and ask for approval from the federal government.

If the proposed work requirement takes effect, thousands of parents would be required to either work, volunteer, or participate in some form of job search or training activities for 20 hours each week in order to keep their health care. Recipients would also have to report these hours to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, most likely by uploading a timecard, pay stub, job application, or other paperwork to the OHCA’s website.

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Video series tells real-life stories of Oklahomans threatened by push to restrict SoonerCare

Thousands of Oklahoma parents need our state’s Medicaid program, called SoonerCare, just to fill a prescription or go to the doctor. But now, lawmakers are rushing to require these parents to work a certain number of hours per week or lose their health care.

As our video series shows, these new requirements are bad for Oklahoma. Work requirements will endanger families by taking needed health care from parents trying to make a better life for their children. They’ll even put working families at risk by threatening health care for those who can’t control the hours they’re scheduled for. And they won’t help to move more Oklahomans into the workforce. Please contact Governor Fallin and ask her to stop the push for Medicaid work requirements. You can watch all the videos below or learn more here.

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