In The Know: Medicaid updates; virus cases rise, no plans to scale back reopening; & 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: Early voting continues today, Friday, June 26 from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm and tomorrow, Saturday, June 27 from 9:00 am – 2:00 pm. Learn about early voting and more using this handy resource from Together Oklahoma: Everything you need to know about voting in the June 30 statewide election.

New from OK Policy

SQ 802 makes good fiscal sense for Oklahoma (Video): Don Millican, who serves as the Immediate Past Board Chair for OK Policy’s Board of Directors, recently spoke about why SQ 802 is good fiscal policy for the state. Reducing the number of uninsured Oklahomans strengthens our economic position and makes good business sense. [Watch video on Youtube]

‘Medicaid expansion literally saved my life’: Steve Schaben says Medicaid is the reason he is still alive. “If what happened to me had happened to me while I was living in Oklahoma, I wouldn’t have gotten the treatment that saved my life,” he said. “Medicaid expansion literally saved my life.” [Miguel Rios / OK Policy]

‘Medicaid changed the trajectory of my life’: Medicaid helped Milly Daniels receive life-saving breast cancer treatment — it also changed her life’s path. “My story is important because I don’t look like the average Medicaid beneficiary. I just needed help when I needed it,” she said. [Miguel Rios / OK Policy]

Statement: Gov. Stitt press conference about June 25 Medicaid audit findings: “The Oklahoma Health Care Authority provides quality care, delivered efficiently, to hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans. The data presented during the briefing doesn’t immediately appear to align with findings from previous state and federal audits, which occur frequently and rigorously.” [Read the full statement]

Oklahoma News

State Medicaid audit waves some warning flags but documents little abuse: Some Medicaid recipients may not have been eligible at the time they received services, a state audit of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority released Thursday says, but how many and at what cost is unclear. State Auditor and Inspector Cindy Bird said the audit did identify almost $30 million — less than 1% of total expenditures — paid on behalf of children who were not eligible for the program. [Tulsa World] Supporters of State Question 802 accused Gov. Kevin Stitt of playing politics on Thursday when he and other state officials announced the results of an audit of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority — the state agency that oversees Oklahoma’s Medicaid program — five days before an election on Medicaid expansion. [The Oklahoman] Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO Kevin Corbett said he plans to implement the audit recommendations to enhance the existing verification processes. [AP News] OK Policy: “The data presented during the briefing doesn’t immediately appear to align with findings from previous state and federal audits, which occur frequently and rigorously.” Read the full statement.

Stitt says closing businesses again ‘not a part of the discussion’ as coronavirus cases rise: Amid a spike of COVID-19 cases that has some states pulling back on reopening plans, Gov. Kevin Stitt said closing businesses again in Oklahoma isn’t even under consideration. “We are so far away from talking about this, again we just have to learn how to live with it,” Stitt said Thursday about implementing new social distancing restrictions. [The Frontier] Most non-essential businesses that were closed in late March through orders by Stitt and local mayors have been open since May 1. Stitt said the state was now 63 days into the reopening. [The Oklahoman]

COVID-19: Three more deaths reported with 438 new cases in Oklahoma; Stitt says no plans to scale back reopening: Three more people have died from COVID-19 in Oklahoma, and hundreds more infections have been reported. The three fatal cases — two women and one man, all older than 65 — were in Oklahoma County. There have been 375 deaths from the disease since late March. State health officials reported 438 new infections, and 207, or about 47%, of the cases were in Tulsa County residents. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma has 11,948 known coronavirus cases and 375 reported deaths. [The Frontier] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma. 

  • Oklahoma State Medical Association speaks out about record COVID-19 infections [FOX25]
  • COVID-19 surge so far driven by younger people, normal activities, Tulsa Health Department director says [Tulsa World]
  • For Second Straight Day, New Tulsa County COVID Cases Total Higher Than 200 [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa’s Human Rights Commission urges leaders to put science first in making COVID-19 policies [Tulsa World]
  • More Than 30 Tulsa Firefighters Quarantined After Possible COVID-19 Exposure [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Jenks zip code has highest number of active COVID-19 cases in Tulsa County [KTUL]
  • Claremore enjoys ‘Food Truck Thursday’ as state health officials warn of COVID-19 spike [KTUL]
  • Norman considering options as COVID-19 cases rise [The Oklahoman]
  • Cherokee Nation continues reopening plan, masks mandatory [Cherokee Phoenix]
  • OSU creates ‘swab pod’ for COVID-19 testing of employees on Stillwater campus [CNHI via Stillwater News Press]
  • OU releases updated mask-wearing policy for all campuses [The Norman Transcript]
  • Ada to stay in Phase 2 of athletics reopen plan [The Ada News]
  • Former Restaurant Employees Call Out Managers For Not Warning Staff, Customers Of COVID-19 Case [News9]

Considering Oklahoma State Question 802: The Medicaid Expansion Initiative: This edition of ST discusses State Question 802, the Medicaid expansion initiative that Oklahoma voters will cast ballots for or against on Tuesday of next week. The guest is Carly Putnam, the policy director at OK Policy, the non-profit, well-regarded think tank. [Public Radio Tulsa] OK Policy published a nonpartisan resource and information page on SQ802 and Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma.

Health News

Work moves on to open hospital: Work aimed at someday soon having a hospital back open in Pauls Valley now looks to be back on track after the COVID-19 pandemic slowed things down for a while. [Pauls Valley Daily Democrat]

State Government News

The COVID-19 Effect on Sales Tax Collections in Oklahoma: With less economic activity came the fear of further complications as tax revenues are expected to take a hit. Services funded through tax revenues would have to be evaluated and budgets would need to be cut. But one tax hasn’t taken as big a hit as you might expect: sales tax. [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma’s system continues to deal with a high number of unemployment claims, latest data shows: Oklahoma continues to carry a high number of people that are receiving compensation on unemployment insurance as the clock ticks down on a key extra benefit provided through the CARES Act. [The Oklahoman] OESC makes some headway with unemployment insurance & assistance claims, but director says more work to be done. [KFOR] Lines grow at OESC as people trying to file demand answers. [FOX25]

Unemployment claims fall, jobs increase: The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) continues to process record numbers of claims to provide unemployment compensation to support unemployed workers. The agency processed approximately 77,000 claims totaling $231 million in unemployment payouts (UI, PUA, FPUC, PEUC) for the week of June 10-17, agency officials announced last week. [Southwest Ledger] First-time jobless claims decline 42% in Oklahoma. [Tulsa World

Gov. Stitt acts on proposed permanent administrative rules: Today, Governor Kevin Stitt declared that all Permanent Administrative Rules submitted for consideration for the period beginning April 2, 2019, through April 1, 2020, are approved and adopted. [FOX25]

Lawmaker wants to house controversial statues in home district: Controversial historical statues and monuments currently drawing the ire of protesters should be relocated to a nine-county area in northwestern Oklahoma, the region’s state senator said Thursday. [CNHI via Tahlequah Daily Press] Sen. Casey Murdock, a Republican who represents Senate District 27, said Thursday that he hopes statues being torn down across the country can be preserved for “educational and historical purposes.” [The Oklahoman]

President Trump Rally, State Question 802, Medical Marijuana Lawsuit & More: This Week in Oklahoma Politics discusses the rally for President Trump in Tulsa, State Question 802 to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma which will be decided on Tuesday and the State Supreme Court shoots down an initiative petition to repeal the state’s permitless carry law. [KOSU]

Criminal Justice News

Details released on NPD’s proposed budget cuts: A cut to the Norman Police Department’s proposed budget means nine officer positions will remain unfilled, including two in the patrol division, according to a statement from City Manager Darrel Pyle. Despite the cut, the NPD still received a $104,000 increase to the previous year’s allocation, according to the statement. [The Norman Transcript] Police Chief Kevin Foster said Thursday he may have to lay off two full-time and two part-time officers as soon as next week. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

$100 million in business grants coming to Oklahoma: Thousands of Oklahoma businesses will qualify for easy-to-access grants of up to $25,000 as the state continues to try to turn the corner on the COVID-19 crisis. Applications for Oklahoma Business Relief Program grants may be filed beginning Monday. [The Journal Record]

The return of events to BOK could mean capacity cuts, masks, among other requirements: Capacity reductions, crowds exiting in phases and operational changes affecting everything down to the bathroom lines could be the BOK Center’s new normal moving forward. [Tulsa World]

Don’t let the silence fool you. Tulsa still in the running for Tesla factory, state official says: It seems like forever ago that Mayor G.T. Bynum stood at the feet of a new-look Golden Driller and made a pitch for Tulsa to become the home of Tesla’s next manufacturing facility. [Tulsa World]

Drought conditions persist despite rainfall in Northwest Oklahoma: Northwest Oklahoma remains locked in drought conditions despite nearly 2.5 inches of rain the last two weeks, according to Drought Monitor, which measures dry land conditions across the nation. [Enid News & Eagle]

Education News

Stilwell High School students explore their town’s history in podcast that was a finalist in NPR student challenge: Faith Phillips had a question for her high senior English students at Stilwell High School. Is this small northeastern Oklahoma town of 4,000 people really the death capital of the United States? [StateImpact Oklahoma]

OSSAA: Board amends school-closure policy to include COVID contingencies: With an eye on that possibility, the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association voted 12-0 in special session Thursday to amend its policy governing interruptions of school activities due to health concerns and rescheduling. [Tulsa World]

State board of education slaps Oologah-Talala with accreditation probation, public reprimands for teacher misconduct cases: Oologah-Talala Public Schools had its state accreditation placed on probation Thursday and its local school board and superintendent are being publicly reprimanded by the Oklahoma State Board of Education. [Tulsa World]

General News

How to vote absentee for the June 30 election: Due to concerns about COVID-19, many Oklahomans are voting absentee this year instead of heading to the polls for Oklahoma’s primary election on Tuesday. [The Oklahoman]

Census self-response rate rising for Oklahoma: While the national self-response rate for the census is 60.7%, the Oklahoma self-response rate recently increased to 54.2%. [The Chickasaw Nation via The Ada News]

Requiem for Oklahoma’s oldest newspaper: My week at The Edmond Sun ended as it began. The pulse of humanity flowed into words as I reported on the coronavirus. But the ink had been cast. [Oklahoma Watch]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa’s John Hope Franklin park added to federal African American Civil Rights Network list [Tulsa World]
  • Norman Public Schools hires first executive director of diversity, equity and inclusion [The Norman Transcript]
  • ‘Not just a hashtag’: Mike Boynton talks about the Black Lives Matter movement [Stillwater News Press]
  • First-ever Pride Celebration in Ardmore to be held this weekend [The Daily Ardmoreite]

Quote of the Day

“Business leaders in Tulsa agree that Medicaid expansion … is of critical importance to our future,”

–Tulsa Regional Chamber Chairman Roger Ramseyer, vice president and Tulsa market leader for Cox Communications, in announcing the chamber’s support for SQ 802, which would give expanded Medicaid health coverage to working poor adults and help secure financially strapped health providers. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day

1 in 4

Uninsured Black adults fall into the coverage gap, compared to 11% of White uninsured adults and 7% of Hispanic uninsured adults. This reflects the fact that a large share of uninsured Black adults resides in the southern region of the country where most states have not adopted the expansion. In contrast, Hispanics are less likely to fall into the gap since several key states that have large numbers of uninsured Hispanics have adopted the expansion, including California, New York, and Arizona.

[Source: Kaiser Family Foundation]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Inequities Amplified By COVID-19: Opportunities For Medicaid To Address Health Disparities: COVID-19 has laid bare and will likely exacerbate the glaring inequity faced by communities of color due to a “constellation” of factors. COVID-19 related health disparities, driven by economic and social circumstances such as living conditions (e.g., residential segregation, multigenerational households, overrepresentation in jails and prisons) and employment (e.g., greater numbers in service industries), are compounded by the physical and psychological effects of a legacy of discrimination and racism for these individuals. [Health Affairs]

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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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