In The Know: Gov. Fallin says no to Medicaid expansion

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 Gov. Fallin’s announced Oklahoma will not join the expansion of Medicaid to provide coverage to thousands of low-income, uninsured citizens. OK Policy released a statement that the Governor’s decision is deeply troubling, and we are missing a vital opportunity to improve the health of our citizens, bolster the financial situation of our health care providers, and strengthen our state economy. The Governor announced Oklahoma will also not establish a state-run health insurance exchange, which means that the exchange will be created and operated by the federal government.

A federal judge denied Hobby Lobby’s legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act, ruling that the company must cover emergency contraceptives in their group health care plan. A new report by OK Policy outlines an agenda for closing the opportunity gap in Oklahoma. A hearing is scheduled today on alleged irregularities in the election for House District 45 in east Norman. A McAlester native was finally allowed to return from the Middle East to visit his terminally ill mother after being on the U.S. “no-fly” list.

Activist investor Carl Icahn is increasing his stake in Chesapeake Energy, where he has already pushed for stripping CEO Aubrey McClendon’s chairman title and shaking up the company board. Oklahoma’s Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger told members of a House committee that Oklahoma could lose $137 million in direct federal funding as a result of sequestration cuts. OK Policy previously examined what the coming federal budget cuts could mean for Oklahoma and what they could mean for education in Oklahoma. Some Oklahoma counties that received FEMA disaster relief grants could be forced to pay back the funds because they lack documentation to prove they were used appropriately.

The Number of the Day is the hourly wage necessary to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, Wonkbook discusses a study showing that Medicaid beneficiaries tend to have nearly as good access to medical care as those on private coverage.

In The News

Gov. Fallin says no to Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma

Gov. Mary Fallin’s decision Monday not to expand Medicaid coverage was cheered by fellow Republicans but denounced by those who had hoped to see expanded medical care for thousands of poor Oklahomans. “Such an expansion would be unaffordable, costing the state of Oklahoma up to $475 million between now and 2020, with escalating annual expenses in subsequent years,” Fallin said in a statement. “It would also further Oklahoma’s reliance on federal money that may or may not be available in the future given the dire fiscal problems facing the federal government.” Those figures were quickly disputed. The Oklahoma Policy Institute said expanded Medicaid could ultimately cost the state $28 million to $37 million a year in 2020.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: STATEMENT: Governor’s decision not to join Medicaid expansion is deeply troubling from Oklahoma Policy Institute

Oklahoma rejects state-run health insurance exchange

Oklahoma will not establish a state-run health insurance exchange under the federal health care law or expand its Medicaid eligibility to provide coverage to thousands of low-income, uninsured citizens, Gov. Mary Fallin announced Monday. The Republican governor’s move puts Oklahoma’s insurance exchange, required under the health care reform law, in the hands of the federal government. Fallin, who cited the potential costs to the state of operating a health insurance exchange, also rejected the idea of a federal-state partnership in operating the exchange.

Read more from the Muskogee Phoenix.

Court rejects Hobby Lobby’s challenge to contraceptive mandate

A federal judge on Monday denied a legal challenge to President Barack Obama’s signature health reforms, ruling that the owners of a $3 billion arts and crafts chain must provide emergency contraceptives in their group health care plan. The owners of Hobby Lobby asked to be exempted from providing the “morning after” and “week after” pills on religious grounds. Judge Joe Heaton of the U.S. District for the Western District of Oklahoma ruled that while individual members of the family that owns and operates Hobby Lobby have religious rights, the companies the family owns are secular, for-profit enterprises that do not possess the same rights.

Read more from Reuters.

Closing the Opportunity Gap: Building equity in Oklahoma

Oklahoma’s prosperity depends on the financial success and economic achievement of the people who call it home.  For a state that has always been rich in natural resources and entrepreneurial spirit, the future continues to look bright.  Yet we’ve also inherited a legacy of discrimination that historically impeded economic opportunity for people of color and created a wealth deficit that persists today.  A report released today by Oklahoma Policy Institute,  Closing the Opportunity Gap: Building Equity in Oklahoma, outlines an equity agenda for the future, one that acknowledges the racial wealth gap and income inequality as products of our collective history, culture, and public policies.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Court hearing set on irregularities in House District 45 vote

Candidates in a close contest for a seat in the Oklahoma House are headed to a Cleveland County courtroom. A hearing is scheduled Tuesday on a petition that alleges 10 different irregularities in the Nov. 6 election for the house District 45 seat in east Norman. Results of a court-ordered recount show Republican Rep. Aaron Stiles held a 16-vote margin over Democratic challenger Paula Roberts. But a petition filed by Roberts alleges the irregularities make it impossible to determine with mathematical certainty which candidate won the close race.

Read more from the Associated Press.

Muslim man returns to Oklahoma after being on U.S. ‘no-fly’ list

A McAlester native returned from the Middle East to Oklahoma on Monday after being on the nation’s “no-fly” list. Saadiq Long, a 43-year-old Muslim and U.S. Air Force veteran, arrived at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City about 6:30 p.m. Monday where he was greeted by his sister and officials from the Council on American-Islamic Relations-Oklahoma chapter. Hoping to visit his terminally ill mother who lives in McAlester, Long had made several attempts to return to the United States beginning in April. He has said U.S. embassy officials told him to contact the Transportation Security Administration, but he received no answers from that agency about why he was placed on the government’s “no-fly” list.

Read more from NewsOK.

Carl Icahn takes bigger slice in Chesapeake as part of effort to play bigger activist role

Activist investor Carl Icahn is increasing his stake in Chesapeake Energy, a company where he has already pushed for sweeping changes in governance. A regulatory filing shows Icahn now owns 8.98 percent, compared with a 7.6 percent stake in the Oklahoma City company he held this summer. Icahn first invested in Chesapeake Energy Corp. in May. Since then, he’s pushed for a slew of changes including the stripping of CEO Aubrey McClendon’s chairman title. Icahn also shook up the company board. In June, Chesapeake Energy Corp. appointed four new directors that were hand-picked by the company’s largest investors.

Read more from the Associated Press.

Fiscal cliff could cost Oklahoma $137 million

The failure of Congress to address the nation’s looming fiscal cliff could have dire consequences for Oklahoma’s economy beginning as early next year, a state finance official warned lawmakers on Monday. Oklahoma’s Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger told members of a House committee that Oklahoma could lose $137 million in direct federal funding as a result of sequestration, commonly referred to as a fiscal cliff, which refers to the automatic, government-wide spending cuts set to take effect Jan. 1. Doerflinger said the $137 million in projected losses of federal funding include $50 million in funding for education and more than $40 million for health and human services. Several federal funding streams would not be affected by the looming cuts, Doerflinger said, including funds for Medicaid, transportation, Social Security payments, food stamps, Pell grants and most veterans’ programs.

 Read more from the Enid News and Eagle.

Previously: What the coming federal budget cuts could mean for Oklahoma from the OK Policy Blog; What the coming federal budget cuts mean for education in Oklahoma from the OK Policy Blog

Record-keeping failure could cost Oklahoma counties

The state of Oklahoma has disbursed hundreds of millions of dollars in disaster relief grants from FEMA over the last five years in response to a variety of disasters: tornadoes, ice storms, wildfires, and flooding. Many of the counties that received those grants, however, have little or no documentation to prove they used the funds appropriately. The lack of a paper trail could be costly. FEMA has been known to demand reimbursement when public entities fail to adequately document the expenditure of relief grants. Services in Wagoner County, in eastern Oklahoma, nearly came to a standstill in December 2007 following a major winter storm, and county officials were desperate for help. Former commissioner Hargrove remembers the situation well. What he doesn’t remember is what happened to the paperwork showing how he used $375,000 in disaster relief funds from FEMA.

Read more from NewsOn6.

Quote of the Day

Hospitals continue to be the safety net for their communities, including the one-in-six Oklahomans who are uninsured. Today, Oklahoma hospitals provide nearly $600 million annually in uncompensated care. Without increased coverage for the uninsured, such as Medicaid expansion would provide, these costs are shifted to businesses and those who have insurance, contributing to increased health care costs. Oklahoma’s elected leaders cannot continue to opine on the need for a healthier Oklahoma without supporting and establishing public policies that promote health and improve access to care.

Craig Jones, President of the Oklahoma Hospital Association, responding to Governor Fallin’s decision not to join the Medicaid expansion or create a state-run insurance exchange

Number of the Day


Hourly wage necessary to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair market rent in Oklahoma; the average hourly wage earned by renters in the state is $11.60, 2012

Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Medicaid, private insurance give same access to health care

The Government Accountability Office recently took a deep dive into the Medicaid program. What it found was surprising: Medicaid beneficiaries tend to have nearly as good access to medical care as those on private coverage, despite the public program generally offering doctors lower payments. There is a relatively big gap in dental care. That probably has to do with the number of states that do not include dental coverage in their benefit package. When it came to medical care and prescription medicine though, Medicaid patients reported no more challenges finding doctors than those on private coverage (the GAO researchers note that the differences in those categories, shown above, are not statistically significant). And they were certainly better off than those with no coverage at all.

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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