In The Know: Insure Oklahoma eyed for exchange

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 some lawmakers are eyeing Insure Oklahoma as a vehicle for a health insurance exchange, but many continue to push for doing nothing. The Muskogee Phoenix writes that state leaders continue to gamble and lose on health reform obstruction.

Lawmakers’ inaction means Oklahomans remain in the dark about whether their insurance meets the individual mandate. More than half of Oklahoma’s uninsured poor people would be covered if the state joins the Medicaid expansion.

Higher education leaders worry shrinking state support could hamper Oklahoma’s college completion goals. Oklahoma City Public Schools will launch a new online school this fall. The Enid News and Eagle writes that Oklahoma needs to make a bigger investment in drug court.

A pair of Tulsa students are leading efforts to advocate for the Dream Act and immigration reform. A new study examines the $2.4 billion economic impact of the Chickasaw Nation. The list of House-approved interim studies is expected to be released this week. See the list of interim studies approved by the Senate here.

The Number of the Day is the maximum a family of three can earn for an adult to be eligible for Medicaid in Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, Wonkblog examines how hospitals will lose funds to cover uncompensated care if the state opts out of the Medicaid expansion.

In The News

Insure Oklahoma eyed for exchange by some lawmakers

If Oklahoma decides or is forced to implement an online marketplace for businesses and individuals to shop for health insurance, a likely or at least logical landing place for the program could be Insure Oklahoma. Insure Oklahoma was created in 2004 when voters approved an increased tax on tobacco, thus funding a subsidy for the health insurance of low- to moderate-income employees at small Oklahoma Businesses. Today, Insure Oklahoma — a part of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority — helps cover more than 30,000 individuals in 4,900 small businesses throughout the state using both state and federal funding. Currently, the agency uses a combination of state and federal funding to pay up to 60 percent of the cost of insuring Oklahoma employees who make less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level and work for companies with fewer than 99 employees, said Matt Lucas, director of Insure Oklahoma.

Read more from NewsOK.

Health care exchange remains a wait and see

Oklahoma GOP leadership has pledged to continue the battle over the health care law that was signed into law by President Barack Obama more than two years ago and upheld by the Supreme Court. The battle may have ended in the courts, but it will continue in the ballot booths this fall, Oklahoma politicians say. But at least one mandate in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has a looming deadline, pushing Democrats, as well as groups such as the State Chamber and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs, to call for action. By the end of 2012, states must demonstrate their capacity to implement a health care exchange where businesses and individuals can compare and purchase insurance.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: Gambling, losing on health from The Muskogee Phoenix

Does your insurance qualify under ACA? Oklahomans won’t know anytime soon

With the prospects of a 2014 tax hit for anyone who doesn’t have “qualifying” health insurance, a prudent person might want to know if his or her insurance qualifies. Unfortunately, there’s no telling, and Oklahoma hasn’t even started the process of resolving that question. Starting in 2014, Americans must report on their income tax returns whether they have qualified health insurance. If they don’t, they have to pay the higher of $95 or 1 percent of their taxable income. In 2015, the tax rises to $325 or 2 percent of taxable income. In 2016, the tax rises again, to $695 or 2.5 percent of taxable income. The maximum penalty is $2,085 per family, and there are several exceptions to the tax. So every Oklahoman with health insurance has an interest in what health insurance qualifies under the law. The Affordable Care Act broadly defines 10 areas that all health insurance must cover, but it leaves specifics within those areas to be determined on a state-by-state basis. Defining qualifying health insurance is part of the process of setting up a state health insurance exchange, and Oklahoma has never gotten to the starting line of that race.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Health law’s expanded Medicaid could halve Oklahoma’s uninsured poor

More than half of Oklahoma’s uninsured poor people would be covered by a Medicaid expansion that is part of the Affordable Care Act within five years, according to a 2010 Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured report. With some effort, the expansion could cover nearly three-quarters of uninsured poor Oklahomans, the report says. Oklahoma Health Care Authority figures show that some 624,480 Oklahomans – about 17 percent of the population – don’t have health insurance.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Oklahoma higher education leaders concerned about shrinking state funding

Over the past two decades, public colleges and universities in Oklahoma have been receiving less and less of their funding from the state. Now, some higher education leaders worry shrinking state support could hamper Oklahoma’s college completion goals. Since 1980, state funding has accounted for a shrinking percentage of college and university budgets in Oklahoma. At the same time, other funding sources, such as tuition and housing fees, have made up a larger share of universities’ funding picture. During the same period, the funding that goes to higher education has made up a smaller share of the state’s overall budget. Higher education makes up 14.8 percent of the state’s budget for the current fiscal year, down from 18.6 percent of the budget in the 1980 fiscal year.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma City district to open online school

Oklahoma City Public Schools will open the doors to a new school this fall, and as many as 700 students could enroll. But the doors are digital. The classrooms aren’t in a building. The district is opening a virtual school, a project that has been in the works for more than a year. The new school will be called Innovations K-12 Virtual Institute. Starting this fall, state law requires all school districts to provide online courses when it’s educationally appropriate. In Oklahoma, online learning is growing in popularity. About 4,500 Oklahoma students took online courses in the 2010-11 school year, according to Evergreen Education Group, a national education consulting firm. That’s up from about 2,500 the year before and 1,100 the year before that.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma needs to make bigger investment in drug court

Would you rather pay $19,000 a year or $5,000 a year? The first figure is the cost to house one prison inmate in Oklahoma for one year. The second figure is the cost for one person to go through the drug court system. We’re pretty sure we know what number taxpayers would prefer. The fiscal situation, though, is only one part of the equation. The access to treatment and the ability to change someone’s life are much more important — and are more readily available through drug court at less cost to taxpayers. In Garfield County, the program has enjoyed an 80 percent success rate since 2004. Recidivism rates for drug court graduates are 63 percent lower than those who go to jail or prison, where treatment may not be available.

Read more from The Enid News and Eagle.

Pair of Tulsa students speak up for Dream Act, advocate for immigration reform

Kasey Hughart grew up in the Tulsa suburbs knowing little about illegal immigration until she passed out scholarship information to a group of fellow Hispanic students at Tulsa Community College. “Instead of a thank you, I got blank stares around the room,” Hughart said. “I was then told that many members were undocumented.” A year later, in 2009, Tracey Medina joined TCC’s Hispanic Student Association and heard more about the Dream Act, legislation that would allow for immigration relief to a specific group of youths. In the last few years, Hughart, 23, and Medina, 21, have become the face of illegal immigrant youths in Oklahoma, though they are not immigrants. They appear at rallies and forums. They lobby lawmakers. They hang fliers and host gatherings. They handle media interviews. They know details of immigration law and policy. They speak for their friends who are afraid to speak for themselves.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Oklahoma gains more than gaming from Chickasaw Nation, study shows

Behind the billions are jobs: $2.4 billion in annual economic impact, 16,000 wage earners — that’s the Chickasaw Nation’s impact on the Oklahoma economy, a study says. Behind the jobs? Growing diversity. More than gaming is fueling Chickasaw growth, according to the study, “Estimating the Oklahoma Economic Impact of the Chickasaw Nation,” by the Steven C. Agee Economic Research and Policy Institute at Oklahoma City University. Gaming did account for 91.5 percent of Chickasaw Nation business revenue of $1.39 billion last year — from 17 gaming centers led by Riverwind Casino in Norman and WinStar World Casino in Thackerville. But the tribe, based in Ada, also had interests in banking, health care and other professional services, led by Chickasaw Banc Holding Co., which operates Bank2 in Oklahoma City, and Chickasaw Nation Industries, which provides services for state, federal and private clients. Chickasaw businesses also include manufacturing, tourism and energy.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma House to release list of approved studies

Senate Pro Tem Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, has approved more than two dozen interim studies ranging from legalization of medical marijuana to spending and management of the Grand River Dam Authority. The list of House-approved interim studies is expected to be released this week, said John Estus, a spokesman for House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee. Sen. Constance Johnson, D-Forest Park, said that for the last three sessions, she has carried some version of legalization of medical marijuana which wasn’t passed into law. Each time, the issue gets more interest, she said. She said the interim study will give supporters the opportunity to go to the Capitol and educate policymakers about the issue. Her requests for interim studies on high-cost lenders and private prisons were also granted.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

See also: 2012 Senate interim studies

Quote of the Day

At what point have we abolished public higher education?
-University of Oklahoma President David Boren, on the trend of tuition and fees replacing state appropriations as the main source of funding for Oklahoma higher education

Number of the Day


Maximum a family of three can earn for an adult to be eligible for Medicaid in Oklahoma; healthy working-age adults without dependent children are ineligible for Medicaid at any income.

Source: Oklahoma Policy Institute

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The super wonky reason states may join the Medicaid expansion

Are you ready…to wonk? Good, because we’re treading into an obscure, acronym-laden area of Medicaid policy that does not usually get much attention, but plays a huge role in states’ deliberations over whether to join the health law’s Medicaid expansion. It all centers on something called DSH payments (pronounced “dish” payments, in health-wonk parlance). That stands for Disproportionate Share Payments, extra money that Medicaid sends to hospitals that provide a higher level of uncompensated care. Those payments, which totaled $11.3 billion in 2011, are meant to offset the bills of the uninsured. The Affordable Care Act phases out these payments. If most Americans are covered under the Affordable Care Act, after all, hospitals would presumably see a reduction in unpaid bills. They wouldn’t need the supplemental payments anymore. That was the thinking before the Supreme Court decision, at least. If a state opts out of the Medicaid expansion and does not extend coverage to those living below the poverty line, the math changes. The unpaid bills do not disappear, but the DSH dollars do.

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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