In The Know: 337,000 Oklahomans eligible for Obamacare tax credits next year

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that nearly 337,000 Oklahomans will be eligible for tax credits next year that will help them pay for health insurance premiums. You can see the full Oklahoma fact sheet from Families USA. Arkansas’ plan to use federal Medicaid expansion money to buy private insurance for low-income residents has won final approval from state lawmakers. The Tulsa World writes that there is a growing chorus of support for Oklahoma to participate in the expansion, including some from leaders not known for entering political frays.

House Majority Leader Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan, had to apologize for using an ethnic slur while debating on the House floor. A state audit found that employees at Oklahoma nursing homes for veterans work long shifts, with little pay and little guidance, contributing to serious problems with patient care. The OK Policy Blog gave an update on bills targeting the state’s poorest families.

David Blatt’s Journal Record discussed the potential for an overhaul of public pensions to emerge at the very end of the legislative session, bringing major but uncertain and poorly understood changes. The Oklahoma Department of Human Services canceled all of its contracts with foster home recruitment agencies and will restart the process to allow more flexibility in proposals. The Senate approved a $5,000 tax deduction for foster parents.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank for the rate of female death due to firearms. In today’s Policy Note, a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that the benefits of the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income working families extend well into the next generation.

In The News

337,000 Oklahomans will be eligible for tax credits to help pay insurance premiums in 2014

Nearly 337,000 Oklahomans will be eligible for tax credits next year that will help them pay for health insurance premiums, according to a report released Wednesday. However, most people who qualify for the tax credits don’t know what they are or that they qualify. Families USA released a report Wednesday that found that most Oklahomans who will be eligible for premium tax credits, or about 90 percent, will be in working families. Statewide, about 302,000 people — the majority of Oklahomans who will be eligible for premium tax credits — will be in families with a worker who is employed, either full- or part-time, according to the organization’s report.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: Help Is at Hand: New Health Insurance Tax Credits in Oklahoma from Families USA

Arkansas approves Medicaid expansion alternative

Arkansas’ plan to use federal money to buy private insurance for low-income residents won final approval from state lawmakers Wednesday, endorsing a model that several other states are eyeing as a possible alternative to expanding Medicaid. The Republican-controlled Legislature narrowly reached the three-fourths majority needed to pass the proposal, which was a compromise reached between leading GOP lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe. Under the proposal, Arkansas would accept the money intended for Medicaid expansion under the federal health care law, but instead use it to buy private insurance for about 250,000 eligible low-income residents. Those individuals who earn up to 138 percent of the poverty line – or $15,415 per year – would purchase subsidized private insurance through the state’s insurance exchange.

Read more from News9.

More state leaders join Medicaid expansion debate

Gov. Mary Fallin has repeatedly restated her intention to reject the Medicaid expansion element of Obamacare. But for some reason, that has not stopped the calls for her to reconsider her decision. The growing chorus of support for expansion, including some from leadership types not known for entering political frays, ought to convey to her the seriousness of finding a way to deal with the problem of Oklahoma’s uninsured. In recent days, Dr. Mike Crutcher, former state health commissioner, and Mike Fogarty, former director of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, expressed their support for expanding Medicaid.. “It is the morally and ethically right thing to do,” Crutcher said. It’s unusual for current or former agency heads to speak up on such a controversial subject.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

House majority leader apologizes for making ethnic slur

An Oklahoma lawmaker apologized Wednesday for using an ethnic slur while debating on the House floor for a bill that would allow merchants to legally offer deep discounts on goods. “I made an offhand reference that was inappropriate and I know that it hurt some folks,” said Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan, after lawmakers adjourned for the day. “I acknowledge that. I regret that. I apologize for it. It was unintentional.” Johnson, a businessman, was debating on the floor of the House of Representatives for Senate Bill 550, which would legalize low-price retail sales in Oklahoma for the first time since 1941. He said small businesses can compete with larger stores and chains because they offer customer service, even though customers might try to “Jew me down on a price.”

Read more from NewsOK.

State audit criticizes pay, oversight at Oklahoma’s veterans centers

Employees at Oklahoma nursing homes for veterans work long shifts, with little pay and little guidance, contributing to serious problems with patient care, according to a state audit released Wednesday. Recent problems include the scalding death of a veteran housed at a long-term care center in Claremore. The audit said the Veterans Affairs Department shows a general lack of support for employees and said the department’s oversight board hasn’t performed well. “These deficiencies in essential services hardly seem a suitable way to repay those who have sacrificed to protect the rest of us and will likely spend the remainder of their lives in such conditions,” said Gary Jones, state auditor & inspector.

Read more from NewsOK.

Poor judgement: Bills aimed at low-income Oklahomans move through state Legislature

A little over a month ago we alerted readers to a slew of bills targeting safety net assistance programs for the state’s poorest families and most vulnerable residents. Some of those bills have been amended to be less draconian, some are now dormant for the session, and many are further on their way to becoming law. At this point the bills we’ve been tracking aimed at low income Oklahomans can be divided into three categories: bills that enact ‘ornamental’ but not real changes, bills that enact real changes but not exactly as advertised by proponents, and bills that are now dormant and off our radar.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Prosperity Policy: Proceed with caution

The last weeks of Oklahoma’s legislative session always bring surprises as issues emerge seemingly from nowhere onto legislators’ desks. This year, one late May surprise that should have legislators worried is a possible overhaul of public pensions that could bring about major but uncertain and poorly understood changes. In recent years, the Legislature has taken major steps to stabilize the pension systems and ensure our ability to meet our obligations to current and future retirees. Yet even as strong financial reforms have been put in place, efforts for more radical change are underway.

Read more from the Journal Record.

DHS cancels 10 foster home recruiting contracts in Oklahoma

There are more than 9,000 children in Oklahoma’s foster care system. The Department of Human Services (DHS) granted contracts to 10 foster home recruitment agencies last month, but has since canceled all of them. DHS Director Ed Lake sent a letter to the agencies last week terminating their contract, but some of the agencies already started recruiting foster families for DHS. DHS spokesperson Sheree Powell says the state uses dozens of recruitment agencies across the state, but this was the first time DHS sought performance-based agencies. She says DHS selected only the top 10 agencies in the state to help increase foster home recruitment, and DHS received bids from these agencies before Lake took his position as director in November. “Well immediately upon him arriving in Oklahoma, he started receiving complaints and concerns from many of these agencies saying there were issues with the request for proposals,” said Powell. “Some felt it was too prescriptive, it was too constricting as far as it didn’t allow them to suggest some good ideas for recruiting foster parents.”

Read more from NewsOn6.

Senate approves tax deduction for foster parents

The Senate gave overwhelming approval to legislation Wednesday that would give foster parents an additional financial incentive for taking in foster children. House Bill 1919, by House Speaker T.W. Shannon and Sen. A.J. Griffin, would provide a tax credit for foster parents. HB 1919 authorizes an income deduction for foster care expenses beginning January 1, 2014. The deduction is capped at $2,500 for single persons and $5,000 for married individuals filing a joint return. The enacting clause was stricken in Senate committee so the measure will now be assigned to a conference committee for further consideration.

Read more from the Norman Transcript.

Quote of the Day

It’s going to be complicated here in Oklahoma where we have an insurance department that is not cooperating and we have an attorney general who is suing trying to prevent these 330,000 people from getting premium assistance that they’re entitled to. So we have to be realistic and recognize that it’s not like state government is going to be mobilizing its resources to make sure Oklahomans benefit from the Affordable Care Act, and I think that’s quite frankly a pity.

Oklahoma Policy Institute Director David Blatt, on a report showing nearly 337,000 Oklahomans will be eligible for tax credits next year that will help them pay for health insurance premiums.

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s rank for the rate of female death due to firearms, 4.6 women per 100,000, compared to just 2.8 women nationally

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Benefits of the Earned Income Tax Credit Extend to the Next Generation

Roughly 27 million working families with low or moderate incomes received the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) this tax season to help offset their federal income and payroll taxes. The EITC encourages work, research has long shown; the EITC expansions of the 1990s did as much to expand work among single mothers as did welfare reform of 1996. And, exciting new research shows that the EITC’s benefits extend beyond working parents to their children — both when they are young and as adults, as our revised paper explains.

Read more from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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