In The Know: Fight for expanded Medicaid isn’t over

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 in spite of Fallin’s decision to not accept billions in federal dollars to help uninsured Oklahomans, the fight for expanded Medicaid isn’t over. Variety Care Foundation Executive Director Andrew Rice said opting out of the expansion would have a terrible impact on the healthcare industry and would particularly harm community health centers. The bipartisan Oklahoma Policy Institute Board of Directors wrote a letter urging Governor Fallin and legislative leaders to reconsider the decision. 

The OK Policy Blog discussed a Missouri study that puts Governor Fallin’s projections of the state costs of expansion into doubt. Oklahoma rose in national health rankings but is still among the 10 worst states. A group of Texas restaurants has asked permission to join Oklahoma’s legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act in order to avoid offering health benefits to its minimum-wage workers.

Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis is refusing to release his emails related to Chesapeake Energy. Gov. Mary Fallin cited “executive privilege” to refuse to release emails related to her decisions on the federal health exchange grant, even though such a privilege is not found in the Oklahoma Open Records Act. The OK Policy Blog looks at whether upcoming federal budget cuts and tax increases are a fiscal cliff, slope, or hostage crisis.

David Blatt’s Journal Record column discusses how Kansas’ tax cut experiment is causing huge budget shortfalls. This Land Press discussed the impact of Oklahoma’s “right-to-work” law since its passage in 2001. Fox23 reported on Oklahoma families working multiple jobs and still struggling to get by.

The Number of the Day is the annual federal payroll expenditures to active duty military service members in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, Wonkblog shares ten ways to reduce inequality without raising tax rates.

In The News

Fight for expanded Medicaid isn’t over

Perlinda George, a student at Oklahoma City Community College, had hoped to sign up for coverage in an expanded Medicaid program under the auspices of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). However, with Gov. Mary Fallin’s announcement last month that the state would not expand Medicaid, George will have to stick with her current plan for a while longer. That plan: Don’t get sick. “I tried with DHS (Oklahoma Department of Human Services) to get some kind of medical (insurance), but they turned me down because I’m going to school. They basically told me to come back when I drop out,” said George, 36. “My goal is to get through school, and that way I can get medical.” She’s not alone. About 17 percent of Oklahomans have no health insurance coverage. And in spite of Fallin’s decision, some groups vow that the fight for expanded Medicaid isn’t over.

Read more from the Oklahoma Gazette.

Andrew Rice: Fallin’s decision will have terrible impact on community health centers

Oklahoma native son and former State Senator Andrew Rice and his family have returned to Oklahoma City. Rice now serves as the new executive director of the Variety Care Foundation. When asked how Gov. Fallins’ decision to opt out of Medicaid expansion will affect the healthcare system he said, “It will have a terrible fiscal impact on all of healthcare, but particularly community health centers like us. Our setup is unique where a big part of our clients are uninsured, about half, and we have a sliding pay scale situation.” According to a report by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation, President Obama’s $1 trillion plan to expand Medicaid would raise state costs by only 3 percent and extend health coverage to more than 21 million low-income people as part of the new healthcare reform law.

Read more from The City Sentinel.

Leadership urged to reconsider Medicaid expansion decision

In a letter from its Board of Directors, Oklahoma Policy Institute has urged Governor Fallin and legislative leaders to reconsider the Governor’s decision not to participate in the expansion of Medicaid for uninsured low-income adults. “The practical benefits of accepting these benefits would be positive for Oklahoma families, healthcare providers, businesses, and the state’s economy as a whole”, the letter states. The bipartisan seven-member Board of Directors is chaired by Vincent LoVoi and includes Don Millican, Nancy Robertson, Albert “Kell” Kelly, Steve Burrage, Susan Neal and Linda Edmondson.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Missouri analysis shows economic benefits of Medicaid expansion

Governor Mary Fallin recently decided to forego Medicaid expansion for low-income adults in Oklahoma under the Affordable Care Act. The Governor asserted that Oklahoma’s cost for Medicaid expansion would approach $475 million between 2014 and 2020, which would significantly jeopardize critical parts of the state’s budget like education and public safety. As OK Policy has shown, the Governor overstates the true cost of Medicaid expansion by making unrealistic assumptions, while ignoring potential savings and new revenues. A newly released study commissioned by the Missouri Hospital Administration further calls Governor Fallin’s projections into doubt. 

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Texas restaurant group seeks to join Oklahoma AG’s health-care lawsuit

A group of Texas restaurants has asked permission to join Oklahoma’s legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act – arguing that it doesn’t offer health benefits to its minimum-wage workers, doesn’t intend to and doesn’t think the federal government can force it to do so. Last week, GC Restaurants and several related companies asked U.S. District Judge Ronald White of the Muskogee-based U.S. District Court of Eastern Oklahoma for permission to intervene in Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s legal challenge to the health care law, better known as Obamacare. Like Pruitt, the restaurant owners argue that health coverage mandates and taxes can’t be imposed on businesses in states that have not established health insurance exchanges.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma up in national health rankings (still among 10 worst states)

Generally unhealthy Oklahoma has seen “some health improvements,” according to the United Health Foundation’s America’s Health Rankings annual report, which was released this week. Oklahoma ranked No. 43—“the highest ranking the state has received in eight years,” according to The Oklahoman. Last year, Oklahoma ranked No. 46. “Over the past 23 years, Oklahoma has seen its ranking range from No. 32 in the early 1990s to No. 49 in 2007 and 2009,” The Oklahoman reported. The state earned points for its low rate of binge drinking, drop in the number of children living in poverty, and decrease in infant mortality. Its challenges include “a high prevalence of smoking, sedentary lifestyle, obesity and diabetes, a limited availability of primary care physicians and a high rate of cardiovascular deaths,” NewsOK reported.

Read more from This Land Press.

OSU President Hargis won’t release emails mentioning Chesapeake

Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis might have violated a university policy prohibiting the use of OSU email for commercial purposes by sending more than 750 emails possibly related to Chesapeake Energy during the past four years. Hargis insists he was not in violation of the policy, but his refusal to release the emails to The Daily O’Collegian and The Wall Street Journal makes verification impossible. University officials said the emails “in no way conduct the transaction of public business” and should not be considered public records. The emails could shed light on the recent operations of the nation’s second-largest natural gas producer, which has been accused of unethical business practices since June.

Read more from the Daily O’Collegian.

Fallin defends ‘executive privilege’ in withholding records

Gov. Mary Fallin on Wednesday defended her decision to cite “executive privilege” in withholding certain documents from the press, even though such a privilege is not found in the Oklahoma Open Records Act. Fallin said the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized the privilege, which is granted to the president. “It is not a new concept in the nation,” she said. But Joey Senat, an expert on openness in government, said that “no one disputes that the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized it for presidents, but she is not the president.” Senat, an associate professor who teaches media law at Oklahoma State University and is past president of Freedom of Information Oklahoma Inc., said that if Fallin wants such an exemption, she should seek a vote of the people to give her that power by changing the state constitution. “I doubt seriously they would do it,” he said, noting that previous governors have not claimed such a privilege and functioned quite well.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Cliff, slope, or hostage crisis?

Since the election, Washington DC has been consumed by debate over the “fiscal cliff,” a number of large spending cuts and tax increases set to take effect at the beginning of next year. Due to the spending cuts, Oklahoma would receive about $100 million less in federal funding, with education programs for high-poverty, special education, and very young students from low income families especially affected. One estimate projects the spending cuts would eliminate 16,000 jobs in Oklahoma over the next 15 months On the tax side, income tax rate increases would cost a median-income Oklahoma family of four (earning $63,100) about $2,200. That’s on top of a payroll tax increase and reductions in the federal Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit that would especially harm low-income families.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Prosperity Policy: Don’t try this at home

Earlier this year, while the Oklahoma Legislature was adjourning without an agreement on Gov. Mary Fallin’s top priority of cutting the income tax, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback was celebrating his state’s adoption of deep income tax cuts. Now it appears our neighbor is having buyer’s remorse. Last week, the Kansas City Star reported that the tax cuts are expected to cause huge shortfalls in the Kansas budget, with revenues projected to drop more than $700 million. That headache should be of great concern to Oklahomans. The tax cuts Brownback signed into law bear a close resemblance to proposals introduced this year in Oklahoma. The similarities are not surprising since the tax cut proposals in both states were largely based on recommendations by economic consultant Arthur Laffer, whose work has been questioned by many economists.

Read more from The Journal Record.

Right to Work: Lessons from Oklahoma’s Law

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, made his state the 24th in the Union to pass a “right-to-work” law yesterday. Ezra Klein explained “right to work” in a column for The Washington Post: “The term ‘right-to-work law’ is a triumph of framing. Such laws do not, in fact, give you the ‘right to work.’ They give you the right to refuse to pay union dues when you work for a union shop, even though you get the wages the union bargained for, and the benefits the union bargained for, and the grievance process the union bargained for.” Oklahoma passed its “right-to-work” law in 2001. The Economic Policy Institute’s Gordon Lafer examined the state’s law and its impact in a study published last year, writing: “The failure of right-to-work to increase job growth is particularly evident in the case of Oklahoma, the only state that has adopted a right-to-work law in the past 25 years. … Unfortunately, Oklahoma saw no improvement in its unemployment rate after right-to-work was enacted.”

Read more from This Land Press.

Tulsa working families need help

They are just like everyone else, they punch the clock at work, every day and they still can’t get ahead. Sometimes families have two incomes yet they struggle. The Community Food Bank said it’s happening more and more. The Richins share something with several families. Something that is likely not thought about as they decorate their Christmas tree. Right now the only thing missing are gifts. All four of the family’s kids are counting down to December 25, but not these parents. Rebecca Richins said the struggle started when her husband George was laid off. “We did unemployment for a while,” said Rebecca Richins. Eventually, that ran out. At that point, the only income they had was Rebecca’s teaching salary. George took whatever work he could. At one point, he worked four jobs.

Read more from Fox23.

Quote of the Day

No one disputes that the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized it for presidents, but she is not the president.

OSU Professor Joey Senat, an expert on openness in government, on Governor Fallin citing “executive privilege” in her refusal to release emails to the public, even though such a privilege is not found in the Oklahoma Open Records Act.

Number of the Day


Annual federal payroll expenditures to active duty military service members in Oklahoma, 2009

Source: U.S. Census

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Ten ways to reduce inequality without raising tax rates

More than anything, President Obama wants to fight inequality. As my colleague Zach Goldfarb has reported, that’s become the president’s major priority for his second term. To that end, he’s pushing hard to raise top marginal income tax rates back to where they were under Bill Clinton. But House Republicans have made it clear that they won’t have that, even if they concede that more revenue is necessary. There are ways for both sides to get what they want. One thing neglected by many debates about tax rates on the rich is that there is substantial inequality in the United States even before taxes. According to the OECD, the Gini index — the standard measure of income inequality — in the U.S. before taxes is 0.486. That’s less than Britain, Germany, and Italy, and on a par with France, but well above more egalitarian countries like Sweden, Denmark, Canada, or the Netherlands. That’s not an accident. There are policies that the U.S. can pursue that would reduce inequality even before you take taxes into account.

Read more from Wonkblog.

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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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