In The Know: Oklahoma leading the nation, sees 13% drop in child uninsured rate | Expanding health care is changing lives | OTA halts ACCESS turnpike expansion | 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.

New from OK Policy

New report shows Oklahoma led nation in improving health insurance coverage, but more than 75,000 Oklahoma children remain uninsured: The rate of Oklahoma children without health care insurance decreased significantly – from 8.6 percent to 7.4 percent between 2019 and 2021, according to a new report from the Georgetown Center for Children and Families. This improvement is primarily due to Oklahoma’s implementation of Medicaid expansion and the federal continuous enrollment requirement that has been in place since January 2020. Though Oklahoma has seen a significant decline in its child uninsured rate, work remains to address the needs for 75,000 Oklahoma children who remain without health care insurance. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Expanding health care is changing lives: In the 18 months since Oklahoma began enrolling residents in Medicaid expansion, the trajectory of hundreds of thousands of Oklahoma lives has improved thanks to the ready availability of health care coverage. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma sees 13% drop in number of uninsured children: Oklahoma experienced the biggest improvement in child uninsured rates during the pandemic period of 2019-2021, a national analysis found. Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families and lead author of the report, said while the number of uninsured children dropped nationally, Oklahoma’s rate dropped the most. Overall the rate declined 1.2%, from 8.6% to 7.4%. [CNHI News]

  • Oklahoma’s improvement in child uninsured rate is best in the U.S., researchers say [Tulsa World]
  • Oklahoma led the U.S. in improvements to child insurance rates. Here’s why [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Broadband Office has an urgent request: Check your internet service: The Oklahoma Broadband Office is issuing an urgent request to check your internet service on the FCC’s virtual map. Doing this can contribute to billions of dollars in federal funding and high-speed internet across the state. [OKC Fox 25]

Tulsa police say federal grant would expand sexual assault response in Oklahoma: Tulsa city council is eyeing a federally-appropriated grant of half a million dollars that would expand sexual assault services for all of Oklahoma through a program run through the city for nearly four decades. The grant was given to TPD to focus “on improving the provision of sexual assault care using a community-based approach, according to a policy statement provided to Public Radio Tulsa. [Public Radio Tulsa]

State Government News

Turnpike authority halts work on ACCESS Oklahoma expansion plans following court losses: The Oklahoma Turnpike Authority is halting all work on its $5 billion ACCESS Oklahoma toll road expansion plan in response to a court ruling that the state’s Open Meeting Act was willfully violated by turnpike officials. [The Oklahoman]

ONG makes conservation and energy efficiency investment: Oklahoma Natural Gas will be adding about $32 million in net benefits to customers under an order OK’d this week by the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, OCC Chair Dana Murphy said. The OCC board unanimously approved ONG’s Demand Portfolio of Conservation and Energy Efficiency Programs for calendar years 2023-25. The customer impact upon a monthly bill for an average residential customer is $1.42 for those three years, documents show. [Tulsa World]

Court: Homeowner can sue bank over improper foreclosure: The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday to allow a former homeowner to seek punitive damages against the bank that improperly filed a foreclosure action against him. Daniel Robb Cole argues that Bank of America owes him for court costs, time missed from work and damage to his credit score, as well as emotional distress and punitive damages. [Journal Record]

Federal Government News

Defense bill scraps COVID vaccine mandate, protects AWACS: A defense policy bill expected to clear Congress soon would end the COVID vaccination mandate for the U.S. military, provide a 4.6% pay raise for service members and protect most of the AWACS fleet at Tinker Air Force Base until a replacement plane is deployed. [The Oklahoman]

Voting and Election News

Candidates flock to OKC City Council races, Oklahoma County clerk campaign: The special election to replace former Oklahoma County Clerk David Hooten, who resigned in June amid a sexual harassment controversy and bizarre claims about genetic immunity to alcohol and European royalty, has no shortage of willing replacements on tap for the Feb. 14 primary. [NonDoc]

  • Four OKC council seats will be up for election in February. Who is running? [The Oklahoman]

Candidate filings: Two Sand Springs city councilors unopposed in bids for reelection: Ten Sand Springs-area residents filed their declarations of candidacy this week for Sand Springs City Council and area school board seats to be decided during spring elections. [Tulsa World]

Health News

New, in-home treatment option for patients launched by Saint Francis, mobile health provider: A new mobile medical service set to launch this week will allow more Tulsans to be treated in person without ever leaving their homes. Saint Francis Health System announced Wednesday it has entered a partnership with DispatchHealth to begin providing an in-home service to the Tulsa area. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Clemency denied to death row inmate convicted in slayings of Oklahoma elderly couple: The Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board voted 3-2 on Wednesday to deny clemency to convicted killer Scott Eizember. Eizember, 61, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection Jan. 12 for the 2003 slayings of A.J. and Patsy Cantrell in Depew. [The Oklahoman]

Murder defendant may be financially liable in Okmulgee dismemberment slayings: Joseph Lloyd Kennedy, charged with first-degree murder after October’s discovery of four dead men found shot and dismembered in a nearby river, now faces financial consequences because of those deaths. On Tuesday, Okmulgee County District Court Judge Pandee Ramirez signed a default judgment that makes Kennedy financially culpable, even though he has not yet been tried on accusations he is responsible or found guilty. [The Oklahoman]

Two victims of marijuana farm massacre were blamed for 2020 shooting in Oklahoma City: Two of the victims gunned down at a Kingfisher County marijuana farm last month were accused themselves of involvement in a 2020 shooting, state court records show. He Qiang Chen, 56, and Yifei Lin, 44, were charged in Oklahoma County District Court with assault and battery with a deadly weapon. Chen and three other victims were fatally shot Nov. 20 inside a garage at the pot farm 15 miles west of Hennessey. Lin survived after being flown to a hospital. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Forbes list ranks Oklahoma near bottom for starting a business: Forbes Advisor analyzed 18 key metrics, using federal data from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and other sources to create a composite score for each state. The rankings take into consideration business costs, business climate, economy, workforce and financial accessibility in each state. [Journal Record]

Canoo makes its pitch to Oklahoma City Council: A $1 million economic development incentive to help Canoo Manufacturing open an electric vehicle plant and train employees will benefit not just the company but Oklahoma City too, Chris Moore, a vice president at Canoo, told the City Council this week. [Journal Record]

Education News

Western Oklahoma schools battling illness uptick, forcing some to go virtual: Schools in western Oklahoma are battling an uptick in flu cases, which has forced at least two to go virtual. Nearly 16% of Clinton Public Schools’ student body was gone Tuesday sick with the flu or other illness. According to the district’s superintendent, that’s about 330 students. Just down the road in Weatherford, school officials say they have around 200 kids recovering at home. [KGOU]

More school board candidates emerge as filing period closes: Four people with varying backgrounds have declared their candidacy for a spot on the Norman school board, including two who did so Wednesday, the last day of the filing period. Gary Barksdale and Whitney “Kini” Vaughn filed the necessary paperwork Wednesday with the Cleveland County election board. Annette Price and Kathleen Kennedy filed papers Monday. [Norman Transcript]

Education Watch: School Voucher Program for Students with Disabilities Continues to Grow: Oklahoma’s private school voucher program grew 24% last year, and demographic data on those students now is available on the state Education Department website. Last year, 1,245 students received funds totaling $9.1 million through the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship program. The program was established by the Legislature in 2010 to subsidize private school tuition for students with disabilities. Eligibility was expanded in 2017 to children in foster care and children adopted out of state custody. [Oklahoma Watch]

General News

EPA working at former BA landfill found to have potentially hazardous radioactivity levels: EPA workers are capping a former Broken Arrow landfill with clay after surveys and soil testing revealed potentially hazardous radioactivity levels at the site. Chief among the concerns is thorium 232 and its “decay-chain” relative, radium 228; the latter decays into radon gas, a carcinogen. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC’s Convergence development altering plans as construction costs skyrocket [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“While the increased rate of insured children was good news, we must temper that celebration by the report’s other findings: It noted that as many as 75,000 Oklahoma children still lack health insurance and the care insurance brings. We all have a moral obligation to ensure that all Oklahoma children can visit a doctor when they’re sick and get care to ensure their healthy futures.”

– Shiloh Kantz, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute, speaking on how Medicaid expansion has improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans thanks to the ready availability of health care coverage. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record]

Number of the Day


The number of Oklahoma children who continue to lack access to health care. [Georgetown Center for Children and Families]

Policy Note

Number of Uninsured Children Stabilized and Improved Slightly During the Pandemic: The number of uninsured children declined during the COVID-19 pandemic largely due to federal law which has protected access to health care for Medicaid beneficiaries by requiring states to keep them enrolled during the federally declared COVID-19 public health emergency in exchange for enhanced federal funding. Twelve states saw significant declines in their rate and/or number of uninsured children with Oklahoma, Connecticut, Indiana, Colorado and Texas seeing the largest improvements. [Georgetown Center for Children and Families]

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Hana Saad joined OK Policy in August 2022 as the Communications and Operations Fellow. She graduated from the University of Tulsa with degrees in Media Studies and English and is part of Phi Beta Kappa, an academic honor society. At TU, Hana regularly wrote for The Collegian and was the Co-Editor of the Stylus Journal of Art and Writing. She also serves on the team at Puppy Haven Rescue to help in their mission of saving rescue dogs across Oklahoma. Hana is eager to learn more about public policy in Oklahoma and use her skills to support the OKP work to build a more equitable state. In her free time, she loves to read fiction and poetry, walk her dog, and make copious cups of tea.

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