In The Know: House committee advances challenge to managed care | Vaccines open to all states | Asking better questions

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: Asking better questions: Our governor gets razzed in some circles for his Top 10 state rallying cry, especially because many of the yardsticks are not nationally comparable or are not particularly relevant to everyday Oklahomans. While I have been known to occasionally poke fun at this Top 10 obsession, I acknowledge the value of establishing lofty aspirations regarding what our state can achieve. However, I am not sure we’re asking the right questions about Oklahoma’s aspirations, and I’m positive that everyday Oklahomans have not been fully engaged in that process. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Gov. Stitt criticizes House Public Health Committee’s challenge to his Medicaid privatization effort: Gov. Kevin Stitt is taking exception with the Oklahoma House Public Health Committee’s recent attempt to challenge his initiative to privatize the state’s Medicaid program. The House Public Health Committee passed an amended version of Senate Bill 131 to task the Oklahoma Health Care Authority with managing services for new enrollees. [KFOR] Rep. Marcus McEntire, R-Duncan, amended Senate Bill 131, which dealt with dialysis, to instead require the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to oversee services to thousands of newly eligible enrollees starting July 1. [Public Radio Tulsa] The amended bill would call for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to implement internal managed care as opposed to outsourcing care management for most Medicaid recipients to four major insurance companies. [The Oklahoman] Critics of the governor’s plan point out a similar arrangement two decades ago ended in disaster, and that while privatized managed care systems are more prevalent nationally, they aren’t necessarily more efficient or cost-effective. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma opens COVID-19 vaccinations to all states: Oklahoma will begin providing COVID-19 vaccinations to residents of any state as Oklahoma’s vaccine supplies and vaccinations administered increased, deputy state Health Commissioner Keith Reed said Wednesday. Until now, Oklahoma had limited vaccinations to only its 4 million residents. [AP News] Vaccine supply has increased consistently week over week, Commissioner of Health Dr. Lance Frye said, and additional access points for the vaccine are opening daily. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma is among the first states in the U.S. to offer its vaccines to non-residents, according to the health department. Several Native American tribes also have been offering vaccinations to anyone old enough for one regardless of affiliation or residence. [The Oklahoman] Nearly 44 percent of Oklahoma adults have received at least one shot of the coronavirus vaccine. [KOSU]

  • (Video) ‘Time is of essence.’ Health experts encourage Oklahomans to take advantage of large vaccine supply [The Oklahoman]
  • Vaccine update: 10 charts that show how Oklahoma is coping with COVID-19 [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma ‘Not Keeping Up’ On COVID Testing, Expert Says [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • COVID Trends Relatively Steady Over The Past Week As CDC-Reported Deaths Slow [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Despite additional COVID-19 cases and deaths in updated reporting, data jumps not indicative of virus proliferation, state says [Tulsa World]

State Government News

T.W. Shannon concerned ‘political pressure’ may be delaying tribal highway projects: In consultation with Gov. Kevin Stitt’s office, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation is creating “new processes and procedures” for highway projects undertaken in partnership with tribal nations, a stark shift in policy that caused Transportation Commissioner T.W. Shannon to ask frustrated questions of ODOT director Tim Gatz during the restructured Transportation Commission’s meeting Monday. [NonDoc] Shannon questioned whether Gov. Kevin Stitt is attempting to influence road projects that involve state tribes. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma quietly launched a mass surveillance program to track uninsured drivers: Oklahoma, which has seen its tax revenue plummet alongside falling oil prices, announced a statewide rollout of Rekor One in November to track uninsured motorists. “The platform allows for real-time detection of non-compliant vehicles,” Rekor wrote in a press release, “and instant data consolidation into a regularly updating insurance database connected to the state’s enforcement programs.” [One Zero]

State lawmakers push abortion restrictions closer to governor’s desk: Oklahoma lawmakers’ relentless push for new abortion restrictions continued on Wednesday. Three bills made it out of committee, putting them all a floor vote away from the governor’s desk. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Get ready for a fight as states, facing census delays, eye other data for redistricting: The delays that the pandemic caused to the 2020 census will take the state redistricting process into uncharted territory. So far, only Oklahoma has formally made the decision to use data other than that from the decennial census for its map drawing. But officials in other states are publicly suggesting that they might take a similar route. There could be even more states where such a plan is being discussed privately. [Talking Points Memo]

Criminal Justice News

Officials attempt to fill SQ 781 coffers, calculate savings from five-year-old voter initiative: Nearly five years after the passage of State Questions 780 and 781, the only money appropriated into a fund for mental health and substance abuse treatment has come from medical marijuana sales tax revenue. [Stillwater News Press] OK Policy worked with the Office of Management and Enterprise Services, Oklahoma Council for Justice Reform, and the Department of Corrections to develop the new calculated savings model based on prison stays prior to SQ 780.

$900,000 grant will support mental health programs in Tulsa’s criminal justice system: A well-known philanthropic family will give $900,000 to support a variety of programs in Tulsa that deal with the intertwined issues of mental health, homelessness and incarceration, officials said Wednesday. [Tulsa World]

Health News

Researchers probing rise in childhood nearsightedness from pandemic-related screen time bump: Add “eyesight” to the list of things possibly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Economy & Business News

$10 million to be made available to qualifying state manufacturers in Oklahoma Innovation Expansion Program: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday announced the upcoming launch of the Oklahoma Innovation Expansion Program (OIEP), which will make $10 million in funding available to qualifying manufacturers across the state. [Tulsa World] The program started last year to help businesses bounce back from the pandemic and is now being developed as an annual effort to help propel Oklahoma businesses into the future. [The Journal Record]

Complaint may spur review of meat industry’s virus response: A union complaint about whether an Oklahoma meatpacking plant is doing enough to protect workers from the coronavirus could test the industry’s response to the pandemic because Seaboard Foods says it is following recommendations from the government and trade groups. [AP News]

Gaming industry slumps, then recovers during pandemic: Gaming activity at Oklahoma’s tribal owned casinos resumed at a brisk pace in the last half of 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic forced a temporary halt to gaming in the spring. [The Oklahoman

Education News

Tulsa Public Schools to launch listening sessions to help develop next strategic plan: With the district’s five-year plan winding down, the board is hosting 10 listening sessions through May 4 via Zoom to help develop TPS’ next strategic plan. [Tulsa World]

Opinion: Childhood well-being at the forefront of academic efforts: The health and well-being of children has tremendous impact on their physical, psychological, social-emotional, cognitive and language, and economic development. The environments where children play, learn, interact, and live play a critical role in their well-being, as well as their developmental trajectory. This includes aspects like whether they feel safe, have access to green spaces, and the quality of the care they receive. [Op-Ed / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa City Council approves major reorganization of economic development procedures [Tulsa World]
  • In historic victory, Joey Reyes wins Union Public Schools board election [Black Wall Street Times]

Quote of the Day

“Look at that, what that did for our economy, and imagine having that money every year – every year matriculating through our health care system and our economy. The economic impact is huge.”

-Rep. Marcus McEntire, R-Duncan, referencing local economic impacts from federal relief dollars and noting the state could expect similar economic impacts if the Oklahoma Health Care Authority continued managing the state’s Medicaid program (SoonerCare) rather than outsourcing $2 billion in managed care contracts to private firms. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahoma students enrolled in Title I schools, which are schools that receive federal funding to support economically disadvantaged students. This represents about two-thirds of all Oklahoma students.

[Source: KIDS COUNT Data Center]

Policy Note

COVID-19 Aid Package Protects Funding for Students in Poverty, But Could Challenge Schools: The American Rescue Plan includes nearly $130 billion for elementary and secondary education, plus hundreds of billions more for state and local governments, to help address the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. But a key piece of the package for K-12—known as “maintenance of equity”— is a direct result not just of COVID-19, but the aftermath of the Great Recession. [Education Week]

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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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