In The Know: Hospitalizations hit record high again | Pandemic had major impact on health care coverage | AG seeks help in Indian Country

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

Policy Matters: SQ 814 isn’t only path to fund Medicaid expansion: In June, Oklahoma voters approved expanding Medicaid to provide health care coverage for many low-income Oklahomans. The mechanism to pay for it, however, was left open-ended for our elected officials. While State Question 814 provides one possible option, it is far from the only one. Lawmakers have an array of alternatives that would both fully fund expansion and help address other crucial state needs. [Ahniwake Rose / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma COVID-19 hospitalizations hit another record high: COVID-19 hospitalizations have reached yet another record high in Oklahoma. The Oklahoma State Department of Heath’s Executive Order Report, released Wednesday night, shows that hospitalizations for both confirmed COVID-19 cases and suspected COVID-19 cases stands at a combined 910 patients. [KFOR]

  • White House recommends no gatherings beyond immediate family for most counties as outbreak worsens [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • COVID hospitalizations break another record, as Oklahoma adds 19 deaths and 1,307 cases [KOSU] | [Tulsa World]
  • New COVID surge plan factors in flu hospitalizations, health officials say [KTUL]

The pandemic sent Americans’ health care coverage into free fall: This is the first recession the country has faced with the Affordable Care Act in place. And in the states that have established private health insurance exchanges and expanded Medicaid coverage, the crisis of losing a job has not necessarily precipitated the crisis of losing health insurance. But in the states that did not expand Medicaid, there is a gaping hole in the patchwork of health coverage, and as people face widespread job loss, unprecedented numbers of them are tumbling into it. [The Nation] OK Policy: Ensuring Oklahoma’s Medicaid expansion delivers on its full potential.

Oklahoma AG wants role on Indian land clarified by Congress. Tribes have mixed opinions about that: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said Wednesday he wants Congress to take a first step toward allowing the state to resume prosecuting crimes involving Indians on tribal reservations in eastern Oklahoma. [The Oklahoman] Cherokee Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Oklahoma Speaker of the House Charles McCall, R-Atoka, expressed strong support for a proposal Hunter outlined in a letter to state and tribal leaders and to Oklahoma’s congressional delegation, but Muscogee (Creek) Nation Chief David Hill, whose tribe was the subject of the McGirt case, said he sees no need for intervention. [Tulsa World] Hunter released a letter detailing a new plan he negotiated with leaders of some of the Five Tribes that would allow them and the state to compact over matters of criminal jurisdiction. [KOSU] While tribes like the Cherokee Nation were quick to push for legislation after the McGirt ruling, others have asserted it is too soon to propose congressional action. [Tahlequah Daily Press] Choctaw Nation disagrees with AG’s suggestions for legislation [McAlester News-Capital]

Health News

Hospital closures in rural America means longer drive times for patients needing care: For many rural Americans, especially those in the South or Southeastern areas of the country, it is taking longer to get to a hospital. A new study looking at the closure of rural hospitals across the country shows that the time it takes to reach a secondary care facility has increased in many rural areas.[University of Alabama-Birmingham]

State Government News

Gov. Stitt’s plan to move Oklahoma public health lab faces more criticism: Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt’s plan to move the state public health laboratory is getting more criticism. A national lab association is raising concerns about the interim facility and uprooting the lab during a pandemic. [KOSU]

Preparing for a ‘Jetsons’-style future: Oklahoma needs to regain momentum or risk being zipped past by other states rapidly transitioning to a future that will include “Jetsons”-style taxicabs, pilot-less drone delivery services and other routine influences of unmanned aerial systems on day-to-day life. [The Journal Record]

Election News

SD 3: Dyllon Fite hopes to beat Blake ‘Cowboy’ Stephens, but first he needs to register his campaign: Dyllon Fite is running to represent Oklahoma’s Senate District 3, but as of Oct. 21, his campaign did not appear to be officially registered with the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. Meanwhile, his opponent, Blake “Cowboy” Stephens, is capitalizing on momentum after unseating incumbent Sen. Wayne Shaw (R-Grove) in the Republican primary. [NonDoc]

SD 47: Senate leader Treat, challenger Stone see polarized public: Treat (R-OKC) faces Stone in his quest for a final term representing SD 47, a northwest Oklahoma City district shaped like a B-3 bomber. Treat first won the seat in a January 2011 special election following Todd Lamb’s departure from the Senate to become lieutenant governor. [NonDoc]

Horn vows to protect Affordable Care Act, Bice promotes use of health savings accounts as a replacement: In Oklahoma’s tightly contested 5th Congressional District race, both U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, D-Oklahoma City, and State Sen. Stephanie Bice, R-Oklahoma City, want to expand health coverage and drive down costs, but each differs significantly on the way to get there, beginning with the issue of whether the Affordable Care Act should remain intact. [The Frontier]

  • In deep-red Oklahoma, GOP fights to regain lost seat [AP News]

Plans for agriculture differ, but that issue is unlikely to sway the presidential election: Farmers are looking closely at what they might be able to expect from four more years of Donald Trump versus a Joe Biden administration, but they aren’t finding a lot of solid answers. And any difference may not matter, anyway. [KOSU]

Education News

Use of state employees by Epic’s school-management firm could be embezzlement, auditor says: State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Byrd on Wednesday told a legislative panel that Epic Charter Schools management company used state employees to run the for-profit company, which could be embezzlement. [Tulsa World]

  • Epic Charter Schools governing boards respond to recent actions by two state education boards [Tulsa World]
  • Epic school board approves new financial controls [The Oklahoman]
  • Rose State, Oklahoma lawmakers examine Epic audit [The Oklahoman]
  • Epic Virtual Charter Schools’ cloudy future leaves families searching for clarity [StateImpact Oklahoma]

OSU student hoping provost will reconsider pass/fail option as petition garners nearly 6,000 signatures: Oklahoma State senior Lacey Hickey had just taken a pretty tough exam and knew that some of her classmates had a tough time with it, so she shared an online link to a petition with them. [CNHI via Stillwater News Press]

Higher education leaders add new transfer agreements in push for more bachelor’s degree attainment: Citing a lower than average rate of bachelor’s degree attainment for students who transfer from two-year to four-year colleges and universities, leaders of Tulsa-area institutions of higher education came together Tuesday to announce new transfer agreements in an attempt to help more students graduate. [Public Radio Tulsa]

General News

Concern about Census accuracy ongoing: Bartlesville needed less help from federal officials then the state as a whole to respond to the once-a-decade Census, which concluded its tally Thursday, but concerns remain about the accuracy of the count. [Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise]

Mass grave found in search for 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre victims; 10 coffins found in trench at Oaklawn Cemetery: Ten badly decayed coffins apparently laid in pairs in a trench decades ago have been found in Oaklawn Cemetery, officials said Wednesday. A research team searching for unmarked burials from Tulsa’s 1921 Race Massacre said the discovery is consistent with reports that 18 Black men killed on May 31-June 1, 1921, were buried in Oaklawn. [Tulsa World] Pauper’s field is one of three possible locations where oral history and funeral home documents point towards a possible mass grave location. [The Black Wall Street Times]

  • Mass grave unearthed in Tulsa during search for massacre victims [New York Times]

Oklahoma Local News

  • MAPS 3 senior center in southwest Oklahoma City to feature great room, gym, track [The Oklahoman]
  • City Council candidates push back on opponents’ not-so-subtle messages that they support defunding the police [Tulsa World]
  • Holding steady: City of Stillwater finances on track despite pandemic [Stillwater News-Press]
  • Group working on petition to recall McAlester mayor [McAlester News-Capital]

Quote of the Day

“These are really extraordinary times. The need to connect people with health coverage is critically important right now.”

-Jesse Cross-Call, senior policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities [The Nation]

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahomans who enrolled in Medicaid from February to July 2020.

[Source: Families USA]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

State Medicaid Programs Respond to Meet COVID-19 Challenges: The coronavirus pandemic has generated both a public health crisis and an economic crisis, with major implications for Medicaid, a countercyclical program. During economic downturns, more people enroll in Medicaid, increasing program spending at the same time state tax revenues may be falling. As demand increases and state revenues decline, states face difficult budget decisions to meet balanced budget requirements. To help both support Medicaid and provide broad fiscal relief, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) authorized a 6.2 percentage point increase in the federal match rate (“FMAP”) (retroactive to January 1, 2020) available if states meet certain “maintenance of eligibility” (MOE) requirements. The fiscal relief is in place until the end of the quarter in which the Public Health Emergency (PHE) ends. The current PHE is in effect through January 21, 2021 which means the enhanced FMAP is slated to expire at the end of March 2021 unless the PHE is renewed. [Kaiser Family Foundation]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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