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TAKE ACTION: Submit a comment by Friday to protect SoonerCare for thousands of Oklahoma families

Speak up by Friday: Protect SoonerCare for thousands of Oklahoma families

by | January 16th, 2019 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (0)

This spring, Governor Fallin and the state Legislature directed the state Medicaid agency to build a plan to cut health coverage for low-income parents who don’t meet a work requirement. When a draft of the agency’s plan became available this summer, Oklahomans submitted 1,200 comments on it, with all but a handful in opposition! Commenters pointed out that the plan was a solution in search of a problem, that it would be bureaucratically cumbersome, and – most importantly – that Oklahoma families would suffer as a result.

Now, Oklahoma’s proposal to cut health coverage for families who don’t meet a work requirement is awaiting consideration by federal regulators – but first, it’s time for people like you to weigh in. We have until January 18 to submit comments on the proposal. You can use our easy guide to do so here. The blog post below explains how this proposal puts coverage for Oklahoma parents at stake. 

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Want to improve the mental health of Oklahomans? Expand Medicaid.

by | January 9th, 2019 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare | Comments (2)

Oklahoma is in crisis.  While need for mental health care climbs, Oklahomans overwhelmingly lack access to the care needed to address these sometimes preventable, always treatable conditions. This has serious consequences: untreated mental illness can mean increased risk for other health problems, incarceration, difficulty keeping a job and keeping up with financial responsibilities, and homelessness. Many people experiencing a mental illness enter our criminal justice system because of their illness: in 2017, 10,000 individuals with a mental illness passed through the county jail in Tulsa alone. Other outcomes are more tragic: our suicide rate increased 45 percent between 2009 and 2016. Oklahoma ranks 8th in the nation for incidence of suicide according to American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Accepting federal funds for Medicaid expansion is the most practical way to address this crisis. Expanding Medicaid allows states to provide access to care to adults who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($16,753 per year for an individual). More than 150,000 Oklahomans will gain access to health care through Medicaid expansion.  This includes some of the 97,000 uninsured Oklahomans with a mental health diagnosis, roughly the entire population of Broken Arrow. Increased access to health care through Medicaid expansion reduces costs for states and helps people with mental illness return to the workforce.

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Oklahoma’s progress on child uninsured rate has stalled

by | November 29th, 2018 | Posted in Children and Families, Healthcare | Comments (0)

All children should be able to see a doctor or fill a prescription when they need to. After all, access to quality health care in childhood makes it more likely that a person will succeed and thrive throughout their life. But in Oklahoma, children are less likely to have access to health care than their peers in most other states. New analysis of Census Bureau data shows that after years of steady declines in the child uninsured rate, progress in Oklahoma has stalled: for the last three years, the child uninsured rate has hovered at around 8 percent. In 2017, that gave us the fourth-highest share of children without health insurance in the US, working out to 82,000 children uninsured. That’s enough to nearly fill OU’s Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium (capacity: 86,112). 

This is bad news for Oklahoma – but fortunately, Oklahoma has the opportunity to remedy the problem. Bringing access to quality, affordable health care to our children will protect their health, position them to seize the opportunities offered in school and at work, and set Oklahoma on the path to being a better, stronger state.

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To help rural Oklahoma families, expand Medicaid

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

Millions of Americans gained access to health coverage in 2014 when big parts of the Affordable Care Act kicked in – but the health law’s effects were always muted in Oklahoma. When Oklahoma policymakers declined to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid to low-income Oklahomans, they stranded thousands of Oklahomans without access to health coverage. The effects of this decision disproportionately harm rural Oklahomans, their families and communities. Fortunately, it’s not too late to reverse course and expand Medicaid, bringing health coverage to the Oklahomans who need it.

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SQ 793 is about corporate control of a medical profession (Guest Post: Joel Robison)

by | October 18th, 2018 | Posted in Healthcare | Comments (5)

Of the five state questions on the ballot in November, only SQ 793, which would allow optometrists and opticians to operate in retail establishments, is the subject of intense, well-funded campaigns from both supporters and opponents. We asked both campaigns on SQ 793 to submit guest posts explaining their position. This post by Joel Robison explains why his group opposes the measure.  A post in support can be found here

Joel Robison serves as executive director for the Oklahoma Association of Optometric Physicians.

State Question 793 is a November 2018 ballot initiative that would allow big retailers like Walmart to open corporate-run optometry clinics inside their stores. It was put on the ballot after a successful signature gathering drive led by Oklahomans for Consumer Freedom, a group created by and paid for by Walmart. The “yes” campaign is being funded by Walmart, with some help from other big retailers like Costco.

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SQ 793 will expand vision care access for low-income Oklahomans (Guest Post: John Kusel)

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

Of the five state questions on the ballot in November, only SQ 793, which would allow optometrists and opticians to operate in retail establishments, is the subject of intense, well-funded campaigns from both supporters and opponents. We asked both campaigns on SQ 793 to submit guest posts explaining their position. This post by John Kusel explains why his group supports the measure.  A post in opposition can be found here

John Kusel, a Ft. Cobb rancher, is an advocate for senior citizens who has served as President of the Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislature and as Chair of the State Council on Aging.

While the rising costs of healthcare can often force low-income families to make difficult decisions between their health and their financial well-being, we can break down one of these financial barriers in Oklahoma by creating new options for affordable vision care. Voters in Oklahoma will have an opportunity to do this on Election Day in November by voting “Yes” on State Question 793.

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Billions of dollars for Oklahoma and health care for hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans at stake in this election (Capitol Update)

by | October 15th, 2018 | Posted in Capitol Updates, Healthcare | Comments (1)

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 new CEO of the Oklahoma Hospital Association (OHA), Patti Davis, has decided to advocate openly for Medicaid expansion to access federal health care funding under the Affordable Care Act. Oklahoma has missed out on this funding since 2012 when Governor Fallin decided to abandon any effort to claim these tax dollars Oklahoma sends to Washington D.C. In the past the OHA has been shy about using the term “Medicaid expansion,” preferring euphemisms in hopes of avoiding association with the hated “Obamacare.” The strategy hasn’t worked because die hards against the Affordable Care Act, constantly on guard against the health care funding, were not fooled.

In an article published in the Oklahoman last week, Ms. Davis pointed out that “if Oklahoma were to accept federal funds to cover the uninsured, possibly through the public/private partnership Insure Oklahoma program as we have proposed, the economic benefit would be in the billions to our state each year.” She cites an analysis by an Oklahoma State University economist in 2016, that over a 5-year period if Oklahoma had accepted federal funds for health care coverage, more than $14.5 billion would have been injected into our state’s economy and more than 24,000 health care-related jobs would have been created.

Ms. Davis goes on to say, “We’re all in this together. Injecting these dollars into health care is a win for education, corrections and mental health. The notion that expanding health care coverage would take money away from other areas, such as education, simply isn’t true. Schools and communities suffer when citizens don’t have access to vital health care services. When our citizens don’t have access to mental health coverage, our jails and prisons, unfortunately, become the default. And an injection of federal dollars into health care frees up state money for other agencies.”

In case you’re wondering where the two major candidates for governor stand on Medicaid expansion, they were both quoted directly in another Oklahoman article by Chris Casteel on June 17, 2018, as follows:

“Kevin Stitt, a Tulsa businessman, said, ‘I do not support expanding Medicaid … Obamacare is a disastrous law that Congress should repeal and replace with a solution that encourages a competitive business climate to drive down cost for all Oklahomans and increase health care options.'”

And from Drew Edmondson: “Rejecting the Medicaid expansion funds is the worst decision the governor made since taking office,” Democratic candidate Drew Edmondson said. “On my first day as governor, I’ll begin the process of reversing that harmful decision.”

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 (5)

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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