In The Know: Cost keeping Oklahomans from getting dental care

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. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that the biggest barrier to getting dental care for most Oklahomans isn’t access but cost, according to new national data. Middle-class Oklahomans stand to receive $3.583 billion in subsidies for their health-insurance costs through the Affordable Care Act. You can calculate what the subsidy would be for different families here.

The Tulsa World writes that joining the Medicaid expansion would be good for the state. Mercy hospitals in Oklahoma are switching to electronic medical records and offering more telemedicine.

Oklahoma is making some progress in repairing run-down bridges. Governor Fallin wants to develop a network of test sites and support facilities to help the drone industry in Oklahoma. A Belgian aerospace company announced that it will open a plant in Stillwater.

The OK Policy Blog explains why welfare as most people imagine it doesn’t actually exist anymore. Julie Delcour discussed the decreasing state workforce and Oklahoma’s love-hate relationship with public workers.

The Number of the Day is Oklahoma’s rank nationally for the rate we incarcerate drug offenders. In today’s Policy Note, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities examines why the war on poverty is unfinished.

In The News

Cost keeping Oklahomans from getting dental care

The biggest barrier to getting dental care for most Oklahomans isn’t access but cost, according to new national data. Oklahoma is one of 11 states with the smallest percentage of residents living in areas where there aren’t enough dentists to serve the population. Only New Jersey and Nebraska have lower percentages, according to the latest data from the national Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured. Just 3.8 percent of Oklahomans live in areas without ready access to dental care, compared with the national high of 57.8 percent in Mississippi, figures show. But that still means more than 90,000 Oklahomans don’t have ready access to dental care, according to the national Kaiser Family Foundation. Although most Oklahomans have access to dental services, they often delay care or don’t get it at all because of cost. And that leads to more serious and expensive dental and health problems.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Middle-class Oklahomans could receive $3.5 billion in subsidies under Affordable Care Act

Middle-class Oklahomans stand to receive $3.583 billion in subsidies for their health-insurance costs through the Affordable Care Act, a report from the Urban Institute shows. That is more than half of the 2013 Oklahoma state budget and more than 2 percent of the state’s gross domestic product for last year. The Urban Institute study estimates that Oklahomans would receive $3.229 billion in subsidies on health-insurance premiums through an exchange and another $354 million in subsidies for cost-sharing expenses such as co-pays. The law would increase Medicaid eligibility through 133 percent of the poverty level, but the subsidies that come through the exchanges are only for the middle class.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

See also: Health Reform Subsidy Calculator from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation

Tulsa World: More Medicaid good for state

Some 624,480 Oklahomans – 17 percent of the population – do not have health insurance of any kind. That shamefully high number would be cut in half within five years if Gov. Mary Fallin and the Legislature would accept the Medicaid expansion portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost for the first three years and then gradually increase the state’s share through 2020, when it would still pay 90 percent of the cost. A 2010 report by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured revealed that Oklahoma is among the 10 states that would benefit most from the Medicaid expansion.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Mercy Hospitals in Oklahoma move toward electronic health records, telemedicine

Soon, a stroke patient in El Reno could be diagnosed and approved for treatment by a specialist in Oklahoma City — without any time on the road. Emergency room staff at the 48-bed Mercy Hospital in El Reno will be able to use two-way video to communicate with a neurologist, who can prescribe treatment remotely. The telestroke program, to launch in El Reno this year, is part of Mercy’s larger effort to use technology to improve patient care. Another effort is MyMercy, an online portal that allows patients to check records, make appointments and communicate with their doctors without visiting the office. Mercy also is expanding its use of telemedicine and working to open a virtual care center in St. Louis.

Read more from NewsOK.

State making some progress in repairing run-down bridges

Oklahoma is moving closer to achieving “manageable” bridge conditions, according to a Tulsa World analysis. About 22 percent of the roughly 23,700 highway bridges in the state are structurally deficient, according to 2011 National Bridge Inventory data. The analysis comparing the most recent information with data from 2005 shows a significant improvement. Earlier data shows about 30 percent of structures, or nearly 1,700 additional bridges, were structurally deficient. Statewide, the percent of functionally obsolete bridges remained approximately 6 percent in 2005 and 2011, data shows. The number of functionally obsolete bridges decreased by 77 structures over the time period. Functionally obsolete bridges are structures that do not meet current design standards.

Read more from NewsOK.

Fallin wants state to play a role in ‘drone’ industry

Oklahoma needs to develop a network of test sites for unmanned aerial systems and support facilities to help the growing industry take off in the state, according to a report released Monday by Gov. Mary Fallin. Unmanned aerial systems — proponents tend to bristle at the term “drones” — are targeted for billions in federal spending and millions more in potential private development, the report from the Oklahoma Unmanned Aerial Systems Council says. The report’s 10 recommendations include a network of unmanned vehicle test sites, including facilities in Braggs, Kay County, Burns Flats, Lexington and near Norman.

Read more from NewsOK.

Belgian aerospace company to open plant in Stillwater

ASCO Industries announced Monday that it’s taking over the old MerCruiser plant on Perkins Road in Stillwater. The Belgium-based company makes parts for the aerospace industry; mostly slat mechanisms for airplane wings and components for landing gear. The company’s CEO said it selected Stillwater because it’s close to Tulsa and Wichita—prime spots for aerospace manufacturing. ASCO plans to begin hiring around 250 people this fall. Once they’re in full production in two years, they expect to have more than 500 employees with an average salary of $45,000.

Read more from NewsOn6.

What welfare? No safety net for Oklahoma’s poorest children

Welfare as most people imagine it doesn’t actually exist anymore. Public discourse conjures images of lazy people scamming the system and living large off their monthly government check. It’s a popular, but wildly inaccurate narrative. Welfare reform in the mid-1990s gutted funding for cash-benefit assistance and radically downsized what had been the nation’s central anti-poverty program. This post shows that the new welfare, dubbed ‘Temporary Assistance for Needy Families’ (TANF), is simply unavailable to the vast majority of very-low income or chronically unemployed Oklahoma families with children.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Smoke in our eyes

We loved government workers (and volunteers) who raced in to help after Timothy McVeigh blew up an Oklahoma City federal building 17 years ago; we worshipped those public servants who became the heroes of 9/11 in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. in 2001. They each and every one deserved our adoration and appreciation. Not every government worker, of course, has a heroic mission. Most labor in anonymity. Teachers don’t fight fires or fight crime but they fight ignorance, and in Oklahoma, the Legislature is starving public education and other important government agencies. In a recent report, Oklahoma Public Policy Institute Director David Blatt pointed out that in fiscal 2012, state government employed 35,504 full-time employees – a reduction of 3,804 workers, or 9.9 percent, over the past three years. Since 2001, the state’s population has increased by about 330,000 people, while the state-employed work force has decreased.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

See also: OK Policy Blog – The shrinking state employee workforce

Quote of the Day

What’s often forgotten is that taxpayers don’t fund salaries and benefits for government workers. Taxpayers purchase the labor of government employees, and all those government employees also pay taxes on the money that they’ve earned.

-Tulsa World Associate Editor Julie Delcour

Number of the Day


Oklahoma’s rank nationally for the rate we incarcerate drug offenders, comprising 27 percent of the state’s prison population in 2009

Source: Oklahoma Department of Corrections via The Sentencing Project

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The unfinished war on poverty

In his 1964 State of the Union, President Lyndon Johnson announced an “unconditional war on poverty in America.” That same year, Sargent Shriver, a key Johnson advisor on poverty issues, argued that we could set 1976 as “the target date for ending poverty in this land.” We made enormous progress during those years. The poverty rate under the official measure of poverty, which counts only cash income, fell by half between 1959 and 1973, from 22 percent to 11 percent. Despite these early and impressive successes, millions of Americans today live with incomes below the poverty line. A major reason why we didn’t make even more progress is that beginning in the mid-1970s, economic growth no longer meant rising incomes for everyone. That was a sharp change from the previous post-war years, in which a growing economy led to a roughly similar rate of growth in family incomes whether one was poor, middle class, or wealthy.

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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