In The Know: Affordable Care Act contractor bringing 477 jobs to Lawton

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 a federal contractor supporting the Affordable Care Act marketplace will bring almost 500 jobs to Lawton before the end of the year. The Los Angeles Times examined how misinformation about the Affordable Care Act spread by Oklahoma politicians and media has left many of the Oklahomans most in need of health care confused. OK Policy Director David Blatt and former Tulsa Mayor Robert LaFortune write in the Tulsa World that accepting federal health care funds would help Oklahoma families and businesses. Jonathan Small and Senator Tom Coburn wrote that we should turn down billions in health care funding because Congress might change the law later.

State Treasurer Ken Miller said the continuing federal government shutdown is damaging Oklahoma’s economy and not raising the debt limit would be catastrophic. Oklahoma nonprofits serving elderly and food insecure Oklahomans are bracing for the ripple effects of the government shutdown. OK Policy previously explained why charity can’t fill the gap if government lets down its obligation to provide a safety net.

Bloomberg News reported on how the recession continues in Oklahoma classrooms as school funding lags. Ada school administrators spoke about their frustration with state Superintendent Janet Barresi. Jenks Middle School Principal Rob Miller responded to allegations by the State Department of Education that he led a parent movement to opt out kids from testing.

A report on urban roads found that poorly maintained roads in Oklahoma City and Tulsa cost drivers $800 per year. Among large cities, Oklahoma City had the fourth highest vehicle operating cost, with Tulsa at number two. You can see the full report here. In a filing with the state Supreme Court, Attorney General Scott Pruitt contended that a total ban on drug-induced abortions in Oklahoma would be constitutional. On October 9, the Oklahoma Women’s Coalition will host a public forum on female incarceration.

The Number of the Day is how many health plans on the individual market in Oklahoma offer maternity coverage to women over 30. In today’s Policy Note, Wonkblog explains why many of the ‘non-essential’ parts of government closed in the government shutdown are actually quite essential.

In The News

Affordable Care Act contractor bringing 477 jobs to Lawton

A federal contractor supporting health benefit exchanges will bring almost 500 jobs to Lawton before the end of the year, city leaders announced Thursday. Serco North America is leasing the 55,000-square-foot building formerly occupied by the Assurant Group. The company said it intends to hire 477 employees in mid-November and begin live operations by Dec. 10. Applications are being accepted online, and interviews will be scheduled later this month, officials said. Mayor Fred Fitch said the announcement is welcome news, especially coming on the heels of civilian furloughs at Fort Sill, a federal shutdown, the loss of Assurant and cutbacks at defense contractors.

Read more from The Lawton Constitution.

Scarcity of accurate information about Affordable Care Act leaves many Oklahomans confused

The nation’s healthcare law was written with the residents of rural counties like Choctaw in mind. A quarter of the Oklahomans who live in the ranch country near the southeastern corner of the state are uninsured, one of many reasons their health ranks near the bottom of Oklahoma’s 77 counties. But that does not mean people here want Obamacare. The state attorney general is leading one of the last state challenges against the law in federal court. The state insurance commissioner issued a sharply worded warning to federally funded “navigators” who are helping people sign up for insurance. And frightening rumors about the law — uncountered by any positive spin — are dissuading some residents from considering it.

Read more from the Los Angeles Times.

David Blatt and Robert J. LaFortune: A chance to help Oklahoma families and businesses

Nearly one in four Oklahomans from the ages of 18 to 64 is without health insurance, according to recent Census data. The absence of insurance is a major contributing factor to Oklahoma’s poor outcomes across a whole range of health indicators, as the uninsured have less access to regular and timely medical care they need. Our high rates of uninsurance create a drag on Oklahoma’s economy. Hospitals and other health-care providers must absorb hundreds of millions of dollars annually in uncompensated care costs, which get shifted to individuals and businesses in the form of higher insurance premiums and medical charges.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: Tom Coburn and Jonathan Small: Expanding Medicaid threatens Oklahoma’s bright future from the Tulsa World

Treasurer Miller: Shutdown harming Oklahoma’s economy

The fiscal impact of the partial federal government threatens Oklahoma’s economic recovery, state Treasurer Ken Miller said Thursday at the state Capitol. This week’s shutdown looms over the state’s economic expansion and steady jobless rate of 5.3 percent. Each passing day of a government shutdown only exacerbates the problem, Miller said. Damage to the state’s economy will depend on how long the government shutdown prevails, Miller said. As of Thursday, members of the House and Senate continued to be deadlocked. President Barack Obama said Speaker John Boehner could end the shutdown immediately by calling for a full vote in the House.

Read more from The Edmond Sun.

Oklahoma nonprofits brace for ripple effects of federal shutdown

Kathy Langley is a senior planner for the Areawide Aging Agency, which provides funding for nonprofit organizations that benefit seniors with social and nutritional services. As the federal shutdown continues, she’s bracing herself for a possible decline in funding for a demographic that can’t afford to lose it. “We haven’t been affected yet but we could be depending on how long this lasts,” Langley said. “We serve a growing demographic with dire needs. Within Oklahoma County alone we serve over 2,000 meals a day.” The Areawide Aging Agency is one of many nonprofits receiving federal funds that could be affected by the government shutdown, said Marnie Taylor, executive director of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits.

Read more from NewsOK.

Previously: Charity can’t replace the safety net from the OK Policy Blog

Recession continues for classrooms as school funding lags

As she hands out student papers to juniors in her English class at Nathan Hale High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, teacher Jessica West tells them she needs their help grading. She has 216 students this year, up from 150 in past years. One class has 39. “I just realized, time-wise, I can’t do it on my own,” she said. Tulsa’s public-school class sizes have swollen after state education cuts that linger amid the economic recovery. Oklahoma is one of 34 states spending less per pupil in kindergarten through 12th grade this year than six years ago, when adjusted for inflation, the Washington-based Center on Budget & Policy Priorities said in a report. Oklahoma’s 23 percent reduction was deepest, followed by Alabama, Arizona and Kansas.

Read more from Bloomberg News.

Local school officials say state wants to ‘gut, eliminate’ public schools

One doesn’t have to invest much time talking with area school superintendents before realizing the economics of keeping a school running are complicated. There are formulas to calculate, bills to pay before reimbursement funds are guaranteed, and years of declining revenues on top of which sit additional cutbacks this year in state and federal funding. Nor does one have to spend much time with local school administrators to grasp their collective frustration with Janet Barresi, state superintendent of public education, who they say does not understand the day-to-day challenges they face.

Read more from The Ada News.

Jenks Principal: Education Department charges are ‘lies, half-truths, and innuendo’

The bottom line is that no laws associated with the Oklahoma State Testing Program were violated by anyone at Jenks Middle School. We simply have a high number of engaged parents who were fed up and wanted to send a message. Regrettably, the SDE wants to make this a story about a principal (me) who in less than four days was allegedly able to convince over half the school’s parents to opt their child out of field testing. The story they want to ignore is the one about a large group of highly educated and passionate parents taking a stand over an out-of-control, high-stakes testing machine that negatively impacts their child’s education.

Read more from A View from the Edge.

OKC and Tulsa roads cost drivers $800 per year

Here’s a number for your commute to work… $800. That’s how much damage Oklahoma City and Tulsa roads are doing to your car each year. “It costs a lot to maintain a road. If you don’t maintain the road, it’s going to fall apart,” says Bobby Stem, the Executive Director of the Association of General Contractors. A new study shows, it also causes your car to fall apart. TRIP, a National Transportation Research Group, found nearly half of major roads in Oklahoma City and Tulsa are in poor condition, costing the average driver $782 in vehicle operating costs. Among large cities, Oklahoma City has the fourth highest vehicle operating cost, with Tulsa at number two.

Read more from Fox25.

Read the full report from TRIP.

Total Oklahoma ban on drug-induced abortions would be constitutional, attorney general contends

A state law aimed at banning some drug-induced abortions was not intended to prohibit all such abortions, though an outright ban would be constitutional, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt told the state Supreme Court in a closely watched case. And, Pruitt claims in a new brief, the U.S. Supreme Court eventually will consider the Oklahoma law no matter how the Oklahoma Supreme Court rules. Many on both sides of the abortion issue are watching the case unfold in Oklahoma because the U.S. Supreme Court has accepted it on appeal and asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court to answer some key questions.

Read more from NewsOK.

Upcoming Event: Oklahoma Women’s Coalition hosts forum on female incarceration

Oklahoma has the highest rate of incarcerated females in the nation – with a rate almost double the national rate. The Oklahoma Women’s Coalition is hosting a forum to explore the issue and possible solutions. The event is free and open to the public, and it will be held Wednesday, October 9, 11:30 – 1:00 p.m. at the United Way of Central Oklahoma (1444 NW 28th Street, OKC). Attendees can bring their lunch, if desired.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Quote of the Day

To actually approve the spending and then tell the Treasury that they can’t pay for it — and if the United States is going to default on their credit rating and not pay its legal obligations — is in my mind just ridiculous.

-State Treasurer Ken Miller, who said the continuing government shutdown is harming Oklahoma’s economy and not raising the debt limit would be catastrophic (Source:

Number of the Day


The number of health plans on the individual market, out of 90 plans, that offer women over 30 maternity coverage (or a maternity rider) in Oklahoma; optional maternity coverage is required of all plans in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act

Source: National Women’s Law Center

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The ‘non-essential’ parts of government that shut down are actually quite essential

There’s a saying that “the federal government is basically an insurance company with an army.” And during the ongoing federal government shutdown, these basic functions are mostly still operating. The people with guns and a claim to the state’s monopoly on violence show up to defend property arrangements at home and the national interests abroad. And, due to the way they are funded, the marquee social insurance programs, Social Security and Medicare, are still running. So what is actually shut down? And how would we describe what functions are currently not being carried out?

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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