In The Know: Expensive health care pushing Oklahomans into poverty

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 new U.S. Census data shows a parallel between poverty in Oklahoma and lack of health insurance. The OK Policy Blog features a ten-minute documentary on the experiences of three Medicare families struggling to keep up with health care costs. A Tulsa judge denied a request from the Department of Justice to extend their oversight on Oklahoma’s juvenile inmate for three months, despite concerns that safety problems continue after juveniles were transferred out of the Rader Center.

Forbes Magazine profiles Tulsa billionaire George Kaiser’s philanthropic efforts that are putting millions towards corrections reforms and early childhood education in Oklahoma. Lawmakers were briefed on the comprehensive state water plan scheduled for final approval next month.

NewsOK has come out in favor of government subsidies for Amtrak. The Shawnee News-Start argues that we shouldn’t eliminate the income tax. The OK Policy Blog previously explained why Oklahoma needs an income tax. Jerrod Shouse asks whether allowing wine and strong beer sales in grocery stores means they will have to follow the same restrictions as liquor stores to keep minors from obtaining alcohol.

The Number of the Day is the number of alcohol-related traffic crashes in Oklahoma in 2010. In today’s Policy Note, The Policy Shop explains why spending cuts will hurt economic recovery more than tax increases.

In The News

Census data shows parallel between poverty, lack of health coverage

Anita Clanton waited patiently Wednesday morning to see doctors at the OU-Tulsa Schusterman Clinic to discuss her chronic pain because it’s the only option she can afford. Clanton, 50, works for a company setting up seasonal displays at Lowe’s home improvement stores, but it pays $10 an hour and her employer doesn’t offer health insurance. U.S. Census data being released Thursday show a parallel between the numbers of Oklahomans living in poverty and those living without health insurance. In 2010, 1 in 6 Oklahomans were living on incomes below the poverty level. And nearly 1 in 5 of the state’s population did not have health insurance. Both poverty rates and the percentage of those without health insurance coverage increased in Oklahoma in 2010, signs that a recovery had yet to take root here, according to data from the Census Bureau.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

Watch This: Making ends meet — The Medicare generation

This ten minute documentary produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation profiles the experiences of three Medicare families struggling to keep up with health care costs and other necessary household expenses on a fixed budget. According to the Census Bureau, 13.5 percent of Oklahoma’s population was 65 or older in 2009. The AARP reports that 11.4 percent of Oklahoman’s aged 50 or over did not visit a doctor for needed medical care in 2009 because of cost, compared to 9.5 percent nationally.

Watch the video and read more from the OK Policy Blog at

Judge won’t extend DOJ oversight on treatment of Oklahoma juvenile offenders after Rader transfer

A Tulsa judge on Wednesday denied the U.S. Department of Justice’s request to extend the lifespan of a 2008 consent decree that resolved a lawsuit over conditions at the closed L.E. Rader Center, finding that the agreement did not extend federal oversight to youths transferred from the Sand Springs facility or to other juvenile centers. The September 2008 consent decree, which was to expire after three years, contained requirements to address issues such as juvenile safety, inappropriate sexual behavior, inappropriate use of restraints, mental-health services and special education. DOJ officials wanted three months to allow a “reasonable time” to review information about the facilities that are being used to replace it. Justice Department Special Counsel Laura Coon claimed the state’s intransigence in providing information, coupled with a report of an inmate transferred from Rader having been being severely beaten by another youth at the Tecumseh facility in early August, left DOJ “little choice” but to seek court relief.

Read more from this Tulsa World article at

George Kaiser’s $10 billion bet

Denise’s parents brought her into the family business early. “At 7 years old my job was to weigh out quarter-ounces of pot,” says the 36-year-old of her rural Oklahoma upbringing. “I started using meth at 13.” For Melissa, 26, the drug use commenced at 11, courtesy of her stepfather. “I couldn’t see anything but getting high,” she says. Facing two decades in prison for manufacturing meth and endangering her children, now 8 and 3, Melissa seemed destined to bolster Oklahoma’s standing as the nation’s leader in female incarceration, driven largely by nonviolent drug offenses. But both of these women and dozens more in Tulsa have been saved from lengthy prison sentences by a billionaire unknown to them and virtually anyone outside of Oklahoma. Over the past four decades George Kaiser, 69, has secretly built a $10 billion empire in energy, banking and private equity, zealously avoiding fanfare and the press. And now he is just as quietly giving it all away, endowing the George Kaiser Family Foundation with $4 billion–and pledging in time to hand over nearly all the rest.

Read more from Forbes at

Okla. lawmakers discuss state’s water future

State lawmakers on Wednesday stressed the important role of Native American tribes in ongoing discussions about the state’s future water needs, even as two of the state’s largest tribes remain locked in a federal lawsuit against a state agency over water rights. The Joint Legislative Water Committee met at the state Capitol for a briefing on a five-year, multi-million dollar comprehensive water plan scheduled for final approval next month by the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. The plan includes a detailed analysis of Oklahoma’s water quality and quantity and makes recommendations on how the state should involve Native American tribes and define water-related terms like excess and surplus water, among other things.

Read more from the Associated Press at

NewsOK: Loss of Amtrak would be blow to state

The Oklahoman supports the state subsidy for Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer route. There, we’ve said it. A newspaper that celebrates free markets and questions government subsidies is inconsistent in supporting the Amtrak subsidy. Fair enough. But as satirist Jonathan Swift wrote, “There is nothing constant in this world but inconsistency.” There would be virtually no passenger rail service anywhere in the world were it not for government subsidies. If the government has no business subsidizing passenger rail service, should it also stop funding airport improvements? Should governments not pay for road and bridge construction beyond what user fees (fuel taxes, tolls) cover? Yet Amtrak’s ridership has grown by 37 percent in the past decade. Its 40-year subsidy was actually $36 billion, compared with the $40 billion that Washington spent on highways last year alone.

Read more from NewsOK at

Don’t just eliminate the state income tax

Some state legislators seem adamant on wanting to eliminate the personal income tax. Before that happens, though, they better determine first how they are going to replace that source of revenue. We’re not talking about a small chunk of change here. In a story earlier this year, the Oklahoma Tax Commission reported revenues for the state totaled $6.321 billion in 2010. Of that, $2.23 billion came from the state income tax alone. Lawmakers should focus efforts to streamline state government and make it as efficient as possible, rather than eliminating that source of income for state coffers.

Read more from the Shawnee News-Star at

Previously: Why Oklahoma needs an income tax from the OK Policy Blog

Five simple questions in the “wine in grocery stores” debate

Monday marked the first meeting of the state’s Task Force on Beer and Wine Sales in Grocery Stores. If you attended the meeting, or read about it in the news, you know that allowing grocery stores to sell strong beer and wine is not an easy issue. Supporters of the change say this is about free enterprise, consumers want it, and that several other states such as Texas do it. Opponents point out that similar attempts have failed in other states over the past 25 years, small businesses will be at a competitive disadvantage, and it will increase access to alcohol by minors and those with addiction issues. The rules that liquor stores must follow are strict and the bar has been purposefully set high to keep alcohol out of the hands of minors. Would the bar be set equally high for grocery stores?

Read more from Jerrod Shouse at

Quote of the Day

These are not predominantly people who don’t want to work. I think the public has a misconception about who these folks are. They’ve had a lot of bad luck in many cases.
Dr. William Yarborough, who runs a clinic serving patients with chronic pain problems who do not have health insurance.

Number of the Day

Number of alcohol-related traffic crashes in Oklahoma in 2010; 6.6% of all traffic crashes in the state (69,805) were alcohol‐related.
Source: Oklahoma Department of Public Safety

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Spending cuts will retard recovery more than tax hikes

Here’s something I don’t get. Republicans, and even some Democrats, say that now is not a good time to raise taxes because of the stumbling economy — yet it’s a fine time to cut spending. As Senator Ben Nelson, a Democrat from Nebraska, said in response to Obama’s tax proposal, “There’s too much discussion about raising taxes right now, not enough focus on cutting spending.” It makes perfect sense to worry that raising taxes could hurt the recovery. Which is why we have written here in favor of Obama’s call last week to extend the payroll tax holiday for another year. But what doesn’t make sense is to fret about the damaging effects of tax hikes while championing deep spending cuts. Both tax hikes and spending cuts take money out of people’s pockets and can hurt the economy. In an ideal world, we’d delay either measure for as long as possible. But if you have to pick one of these poisons — if you believe that some deficit reduction is needed immediately and you want to do this with the least threat to economic recovery — than tax hikes, especially on the rich and on business, are the way to go.

Read more from Policy Shop at

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.