In The Know: Options are few for thousands denied Medicaid path

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. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Oklahoma Watch investigated the health-care fate of tens of thousands of low-income parents who are in limbo because of Governor Fallin’s refusal to accept federal money to expand Medicaid. Oklahoma Watch explained who falls into the coverage crater created by not joining the expansion. OK Policy previously discussed the coverage crater here. The Governor’s decision has left health officials scrambling to come up with alternative ways to help the uninsured.

The Tulsa World reports that full implementation of Obamacare would help 50,000 veterans and their family members who have no health insurance to get access to care. Uninsured drivers cost Oklahoma $8.8 million a year in tax premiums, according to a new study by the Oklahoma Insurance Department.

The OK Policy Blog explained how a flat tax proposal by Sen. Patrick Anderson (R-Enid) would hike taxes for moderate-income families with children, seniors, veterans, and military personnel. NewsOK writes that proposals to make large cuts to Oklahoma’s top income tax rate “seem even more pie-in-the-sky today than they did a year ago.” In the Edmond Sun, Mickey Hepner made the case against another income tax cut.

A Kansas court ruled that the state is unconstitutionally short-changing students by underfunding education and must increase spending by about $400 million. The national education advocacy group State for Children is launching an affiliate in Oklahoma to push lawmakers to fund the mandates they have imposed on public schools in the past couple years.

Lee Slater, an Oklahoma City attorney who served nearly 20 years overseeing Oklahoma’s elections, was named the new executive director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. A pregnant Pauls Valley woman who sought help at the hospital for severe abdominal pain died in jail after police arrested her for possessing two prescription pills. Sen. Susan Paddack (D-Ada) has filed a bill to make the state superintendent appointed by the governor rather than elected.

The Number of the Day is how many homes were in foreclosure in Oklahoma as of November 2012. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times reports that despite rising productivity and corporate profits, wages have fallen to a record low as a share of America’s gross domestic product.

In The News

Options are few for thousands denied Medicaid path

The health-care fate of tens of thousands of low-income parents is in limbo because of Oklahoma’s refusal to accept federal money to expand Medicaid. Most of the attention so far on which Oklahomans will not gain access to Medicaid in 2014 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act has been on adults without children. But also excluded will be as many as 50,000 Oklahoma parents with dependent children living at home, according to one study by a nonpartisan research group. That represents about a fourth of all low-income adults who would have been eligible for expanded Medicaid — the 13th highest share in the nation, according to the study by the Urban Institute, a nonprofit group based in Washington, D.C. That prospect leaves some uninsured parents on edge.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

See also: Who’s in, who’s out of coverage ‘crater’ from Oklahoma Watch; Avoiding the Medicaid ‘coverage crater’ from the OK Policy Blog

Fallin’s Medicaid rejection prompts scramble by health officials for new options

Gov. Mary Fallin’s decision to reject a Medicaid expansion that would have made health coverage available to roughly 200,000 uninsured low-income, working class Oklahomans has left health officials scrambling to come up with alternative ways to make health care available to this population. Although no concrete proposals have been developed, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority on Thursday approved a $500,000 sole-source contract with Utah-based health consultant Leavitt Partners to develop ways to target the nearly 20 percent of Oklahoma’s population that have no health insurance. The contract is expected to begin on Feb. 1, and OHCA officials say they hope the group can develop recommendations the Legislature will be able to enact before the session concludes at the end of May.

Read more from the Associated Press.

‘Obamacare’ would help many veterans, families

Among the tens of thousands of Oklahomans who could receive much-needed health care if elements of Obamacare were enacted in the state are about 50,000 veterans and their family members who have no health insurance and who also are facing such issues as chronic health problems, little education and unemployment. Oklahoma, in fact, has one of the highest rates of uninsurance among younger veterans at an estimated 13.8 percent, according to a recent national study. Only four other states had higher rates. Oklahoma had the second highest rate of uninsurance for younger veterans’ family members at 11.9 percent. According to the study, about half of these uninsured veterans would qualify for coverage under the Medicaid expansion called for in Obamacare, and another 40 percent might qualify for subsidized coverage through health insurance exchanges envisioned by the law.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Uninsured drivers cost Oklahoma millions in taxes, agency says

Uninsured drivers cost Oklahoma $8.8 million a year in tax premiums, according to a new study by the Oklahoma Insurance Department. The agency estimates Oklahoma has 563,692 uninsured drivers. Based on an average annual cost of liability insurance for those drivers of $700 and a premium tax rate of 2.25 percent, the state loses more than $8.8 million annually. Several estimates place the state with a high number of uninsured drivers. Insurance Commissioner John Doak said he believes the problem is partly a result of lax enforcement of state law in the past.

Read more from NewsOK.

The tax shift returns

Yesterday, Senator Patrick Anderson (R-Enid) filed legislation to replace Oklahoma’s income tax with a flat tax of 2.95 percent. Anderson’s bill would do away with Oklahoma’s current tax brackets and eliminate all income tax deductions, credits and exemptions, including credits and exemptions for members of the military, retired seniors, the working poor, and families with children. Sen. Anderson asserted that his bill “offers tax relief to all Oklahomans, and it has no negative impact on the state budget.” It is mathematically impossible for both of those things to be true. If everyone is paying less taxes, then revenue will drop. If some people are paying less in a revenue neutral plan, then others are paying more. While Sen. Anderson’s plan may or may not be revenue neutral, it would definitely not offer “tax relief to all Oklahomans.”

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

NewsOK: Federal fiscal outlook is wild card in Oklahoma income tax dealings

A year ago, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback was the poster boy for the benefits of state income tax cuts. Now he’s the whipping boy for a revenue shortfall because Brownback actually succeeded in cutting taxes. In the spirited debate over proposed income tax cuts for Oklahomans at this time last year, Kansas and Missouri were cited as examples of states where tax-cutting plans would put this state at a disadvantage. But opponents of Oklahoma tax cuts warned that Brownback and Kansas were overreaching. Kansas now faces a shortfall. Its governor must find offsets for revenue losses.

Read more from NewsOK.

Court says Kansas must increase school funding, slams tax cuts

Kansas is unconstitutionally short-changing its students by underfunding education needs and must increase spending by about $400 million, a three-judge panel ruled unanimously on Friday. The court said it was “illogical” for the state to argue that it could not adequately fund schools at the same time it slashed income taxes. The ruling is the latest in a series of court victories for a group of public school districts, parents and students in Kansas who have demanded for years that the state provide more money for education.

Read more from Reuters.

The case against another income tax cut

In the next three weeks Gov. Mary Fallin will release her proposed FY 2014 state budget — a budget that likely will renew her call for legislators to pass a significant cut in Oklahoma’s individual income tax. While cutting the state’s income tax likely will be very popular with key legislators, the more interesting policy question is whether enacting further income tax cuts is the best way to allocate limited state revenues. Every penny that the Legislature allocates to fund state income tax cuts is one less penny that they can use to fund other budget needs. So, more income tax cuts necessarily mean less spending for education, less spending for roads, less spending for prisons and less money for other types of tax cuts.

Read more from the Edmond Sun.

Stand for Children starts affiliate in Oklahoma

A national education advocacy group says it’s time Oklahoma lawmakers provide money to implement standards imposed on public schools the past couple years. Stand for Children has opened an office in Oklahoma with the goal this year to get money to pay for programs intended to improve learning for students, such as better reading instruction and end-of-high school exams in public schools, said Jonah Edelman, founder and chief executive officer of the nonprofit. The group, founded in 1996, has affiliates in 10 other states. Its long-term goal in the state is to get parents more involved with public schools, Edelman said.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma Ethics Commission hires new director

An Oklahoma City attorney who served nearly 20 years overseeing Oklahoma’s elections was named Friday to be the executive director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission. Lee Slater, 69, will start his new duties Feb. 1 on a part-time basis to help him close down his law practice. His annual salary will be $120,000 once he works for the agency full-time, which is to occur by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year. Slater, whose legal specialty is campaign finance and lobbyist regulations, succeeds Marilyn Hughes, who retired late last year after serving 25 years heading up the Ethics Commission, which writes civil penalty rules governing state campaigns and the conduct of state officers and employees. Slater also was hired to do legal work the past 20 years for the state Senate.

Read more from NewsOK.

Pregnant Pauls Valley mother dies in jail

A Pauls Valley family is forced to deal with tragedy after a 33-year-old mother dies from a medical condition while being held at the Garvin County jail. The victim in this case is Jamie Lynn Russell. Jamie also used the last name of Fisher. Her death came just hours after she went to the hospital seeking help for severe abdominal pain. “Jamie was seeking help; she was in extreme pain,” family friend Kemper Kimberlin said. Hospital staff reported Jamie wouldn’t cooperate, in too much pain to even lie down, so employees asked a Pauls Valley police officer to assist. Unfortunately, when police found two prescription pills that didn’t belong to Jamie, police took her to jail for drug possession. That’s where Jamie sat for less than two hours before being found unresponsive.

Read more from KFOR.

Propose measure would make state superintendent appointed by Governor

Legislation to make the office of state superintendent of public instruction an appointive rather than elective office has been filed for the upcoming session. State Sen. Susan Paddack, D-Ada, who lost to current state Superintendent Janet Barresi in the 2010 general election, offered Senate Joint Resolution 6 last week, a proposed constitutional amendment making the office subject to appointment by the governor with the consent of the Senate. “This is something I’ve looked at for a long time,” Paddack said. “The state superintendent is such an important position, it shouldn’t be political.” Paddack said the proposed amendment is not connected to the 2010 election.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Quote of the Day

These aren’t homeless people who don’t have jobs. In our free clinic, we see people all the time from various professions – teachers, small-business owners, and a lot of truck drivers. In fact, I don’t have insurance.

William Noel, pastor of Grace and Glory Baptist Church, who many people would be surprised at the variety of Oklahomans without health insurance

Number of the Day


Number of homes in foreclosure in Oklahoma as of November 2012, compared to 12,016 in 2011

Source: Realty Trac

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Our economic pickle

Federal income tax rates will rise for the wealthiest Americans, and certain tax loopholes might get closed this year. But these developments, and whatever else happens in Washington in the coming debt-ceiling debate, are unlikely to do much to alter one major factor contributing to income inequality: stagnant wages. For millions of workers, wages have flatlined. Take Caterpillar, long a symbol of American industry: while it reported record profits last year, it insisted on a six-year wage freeze for many of its blue-collar workers. Wages have fallen to a record low as a share of America’s gross domestic product. Until 1975, wages nearly always accounted for more than 50 percent of the nation’s G.D.P., but last year wages fell to a record low of 43.5 percent. Since 2001, when the wage share was 49 percent, there has been a steep slide.

Read more from the New York Times.

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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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