In The Know: Legal challenge filed on managed care | Teachers to be eligible for vaccines Feb. 22 | More

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.

Note: In The Know will not publish on Monday, Feb. 15, due to the Presidents Day federal holiday.

New from OK Policy

Changes to Oklahoma’s drug laws reduce criminal charges and prison sentences: Oklahoma’s recent success in reducing our prison population is hard won. Sentencing reforms passed by voters in 2016 and by the Legislature in 2018 have contributed to a 23% drop in the prison population since it peaked in 2016. Though much remains to be done, the Oklahoma Policy Institute has been tracking the effects of justice reform in courts, jails, and prisons as reforms have taken hold and found a steady move towards a less punitive approach to offenses like drug possession and burglary. [Liz Spencer / OK Policy]

Together Oklahoma Talks Policy: Healthy Oklahomans & Health Care: Together Oklahoma, OK Policy’s grassroots advocacy program, on Feb. 12 held a talk on policy and legislative issues regarding Oklahoma health care and the current legislative session. A recording of the talk is available online, and TOK will be hosting additional policy talks on Thursday, Feb. 18 (Safe Communities & Justice Reform) and Monday, Feb. 22 (Thriving Families and Budget/Tax). [Registration]     

Oklahoma News

Legal challenge filed to prevent state from moving forward with privatizing Medicaid: A number of health groups filed suit in the Oklahoma Supreme Court on Thursday seeking an injunction against moving forward with managed care. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the state’s Medicaid agency, recently announced contracts to four companies for more than $2 billion to proceed with managed care, despite opposition from lawmakers and health care organizations. The new system of Medicaid management is intended to be operational by Oct. 1, but the suit seeks an injunction to prevent the state from moving forward with the privatization. [Tulsa World] The groups allege the Legislature, which would be tasked with funding the shift to what is commonly referred to managed care, has been left out of the process. More than 30 Republican legislators and some Democrats oppose privatizing Oklahoma’s Medicaid program. [The Oklahoman] A spokeswoman for the agency says they’re aware of the lawsuit and confident Oklahoma law gives them the authority to develop the managed-care plan. [AP News]

  • Oklahoma moves forward on partially privatizing Medicaid amid opposition [StateImpact Oklahoma]
  • Oklahoma court asked to halt state plan to privatize Medicaid [Bloomberg Law]
  • Letter: Legislature should stop ‘disastrous’ privatized Medicaid managed care [Opinion / NonDoc]

Teachers, those with comorbidities eligible for vaccines Feb. 22: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt said today that, starting Feb. 22, COVID-19 vaccines will become available to pre-K through 12th grade teachers, school staff and Oklahomans younger than 65 who have health conditions that put them at high risk for complications from the novel coronavirus. [NonDoc] About 1.1 million Oklahomans are estimated to be in the newly-eligible groups. “This portion of Phase 2 will likely take some time to complete,” said Deputy Health Commissioner Keith Reed. [The Frontier] Some teachers are skeptical about whether Gov. Kevin Stitt’s pledge to expedite access for teachers and school support staff will come to fruition. [Tulsa World] In a statement, State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said the opportunity for teachers to get vaccinated as “soon as reasonably possible is critical.” [Public Radio Tulsa] Oklahoma currently ranks sixth in the nation in vaccine distribution, with 11.1% of the state’s population receiving at least the first dose, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The national average is 10.2%. [AP News] About 441,000 Oklahomans have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 167,000 have taken both doses. [The Oklahoman] Vaccine supply, which is controlled by the federal government, still is limited so there likely will be more demand than supply for many weeks, health officials said. [CNHI via Enid News & Eagle]

  • Gov. Kevin Stitt, officials talk next steps for COVID vaccine distribution in Oklahoma [The Oklahoman] | [Tulsa World]
  • Winter weather is latest snag for lagging vaccine rollout [AP News]
  • THD vaccine clinics canceled through Monday due to weather [Tulsa World]
  • COVID-19: 48 more deaths reported in Oklahoma with 1,677 new cases [Tulsa World]
  • Lawton Public Schools already work on vaccine distribution plan [Lawton Constitution]

Health News

Affordable Care Act’s 2021 Special Enrollment Period begins next week: The 2021 Special Enrollment Period for Affordable Care Act individual health insurance plans begins next week. The enrollment period begins Monday, Feb. 15, according to an Oklahoma Insurance Department news release. [KFOR]

MyHealth appeals state’s denial of protest alleging flaws in awarding contract to build health information exchange: MyHealth Access Network is appealing the denial of its protest that alleges the state’s award of a health information exchange contract was a flawed process. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Unemployment claims show a mixture of good and bad news for Oklahoma: The weekly unemployment report was a mixture of good and bad news for Oklahoma as first-time claims for benefits declined while another metric shows claims hitting peaks not seen since July. [Tulsa World]

Virtual meetings, new legislation, Senate District 22 and more: This Week in Oklahoma Politics, discusses Governor Stitt signing legislation allowing public bodies to hold meetings online rather than in person and new bills currently working through the state legislature. The trio also discusses the race for Senate District 22 which now pits Republican Jake Merrick against Democrat Molly Ooten on April 6th and the passing of Maxine Horner, one of the first Black women elected to the state legislature. [KOSU]

Gender pay equality bill dies in committee: In a committee meeting held Thursday, state lawmakers voted to kill a bill intended to provide guidance for employers seeking to avoid a gender discrimination lawsuit. Committee members feared the bill would have unintended consequences that would put Oklahoma employers at greater risk. [Journal Record]

Bill to open elections spurned by committee: A proposal to allow voters of all political persuasions to decide which nominee should be elected to a public office when candidates from only one political party file for that office was rejected Tuesday on a party-line vote. [Southwest Ledger]

Oklahoma lawmaker resubmits police telehealth support bill: Oklahoma lawmakers are moving forward with a bill that would allow police officers to access telehealth to virtually assess someone in crisis. [mHealth Intelligence]

Bill to end ticket quotas moves forward in Senate: A state Senate bill that passed its initial hurdle would prevent Oklahoma law enforcement agencies from rewarding or punishing officers based on the number of traffic tickets written. [Southwest Ledger]

Bill would crack down on road construction zone violators: Motorists will have to be a lot more careful in work zones if legislation bouncing around the Oklahoma House of Representatives becomes law in something close to its current form. [Tulsa World]

Wildlife Department monitoring key bills in Legislature: With a new legislative session comes new bills from the House and Senate addressing matters related to wildlife in Oklahoma, an issue, obviously, of great importance to the state Department of Wildlife Conservation. [Southwest Ledger]

Federal Government News

What Oklahomans need to know about the extended eviction moratorium: Oklahomans behind on rent now have one more month to try and find relief after the Biden Administration extended the eviction moratorium through March 2021. [News9]

Inhofe meets with Biden at White House about transportation package: Sen. Jim Inhofe met at the White House on Thursday with President Joe Biden and others about improving the nation’s roads and other transportation systems, as the president contemplates a major package to modernize infrastructure. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Tulsa man succumbs to subfreezing temperatures: A man exposed to bitterly cold temperatures froze to death in downtown Tulsa on Thursday. The man, in his late 70s, was found in a sleeping bag at Archer Street and Denver Avenue about 2:40 p.m., Tulsa Police Lt. Jason Muse said. [Tulsa World]

‘Not all heroes wear capes … Ours wear headsets’: 211 calls skyrocket 800%: The 211 helpline saw an unprecedented surge in traffic when the COVID pandemic reached Tulsa last spring, doubling the record-high number of calls the center had ever received before. But it turned out to be only a small taste of what was to come. [Tulsa World]

Education News

Editorial: Time to reset the uses of student state testing: Billions of dollars have been spent raising a generation of public school students on high-stakes testing with little to no better results. The pandemic has lifted the veil on the myriad of inequities facing families, students and schools ranging from access to technology to food. Educators and school advocates are pushing to take a break from testing this year in deference to the hardships being faced. Nearly all districts have been forced into distance learning either long-term or intermittently because of the COVID-19 pandemic and staff shortages. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Court ruling confirms earlier decision — even big businesses have to stick with their electrical provider: Electrical service territories inside of Oklahoma matter, three judges on Oklahoma’s Court of Civil Appeals have ruled. [The Oklahoman]

Green Gold Rush: Medical marijuana becomes Oklahoma’s new cash crop: Those in the know in Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry expect sales to cross the 10-figure threshold in 2021. A portion of those blooming sales is growing the state’s tax dollars. [KJRH]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa City Council discusses outgoing Tulsa County GOP Chair’s nomination for advisory board [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Lawton City Council sets criteria for new Race Relations Commission [The Lawton Constitution]

Quote of the Day

“Our goal is to ensure that any teacher who wants to receive COVID-19 vaccine has the opportunity to do so by spring break.”

-State Health Commissioner Dr. Lance Frye [Public Radio Tulsa]

Number of the Day

$1.1 billion

Estimated new statewide labor income as a result of Medicaid expansion

[Source: National Center for Rural Health Works]

Policy Note

Medicaid Enrollment In The Age Of COVID-19: A Nine-Month Analysis Of Trends Across The Nation: From February through November 2020, Families USA has closely monitored state-bystate Medicaid enrollment related to COVID-19 and the economic downturn. Throughout the summer and fall, we observed rapidly increasing Medicaid enrollment rates. Although we found wide variations among the 41 states that reported Medicaid enrollment through September or October (which includes seven states that reported data for November), all states reported increases in enrollment ranging from 4% to nearly 25%. Moreover, in the wake of the racial, economic, and political unrest of the past year, this analysis further highlights the disproportionate impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on communities of color, and the importance of Medicaid as a safety net for our nation’s most vulnerable populations. [Families USA]

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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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