In The Know: Board votes to reverse Oklahoma Medicaid provider rate cuts

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. Click here to subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Today In The News

Board votes to reverse Oklahoma Medicaid provider rate cuts: The board that oversees Oklahoma’s Medicaid agency has voted to reverse provider rate cuts scheduled to go into effect next month, but the agency only has enough operating funds to last until April. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority board voted Friday in a special meeting to reverse the rate cuts set to take effect Jan. 1. The action was taken after the Legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin authorized an additional $17.7 million for the agency [AP].

Obamacare sign-ups in Oklahoma fall, but less than expected: Slightly fewer Oklahomans signed up to buy insurance through the exchange this year, but some market watchers had expected enrollment to fall much further. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report 141,504 households in Oklahoma signed up for insurance through the exchange before open enrollment ended Dec. 15. The state’s total was down about 3 percent from last year, when 146,286 households signed up [NewsOK].

US Dept of Ed asks for more from state’s plan: The U.S. Department of Education has requested additional details and clarifications before giving Oklahoma’s new school plan final federal approval. Under new requirements with the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced No Child Left Behind in late 2015, states are required to submit consolidated plans that outline how schools will be assessed and what steps will be taken to drive academic improvement [NewsOK].

Oklahomans in Need Could Pay the Price for Health Department Crisis: At community health centers across Oklahoma, new patients typically have to wait more than two months for a dentist appointment. Those waits may get even longer. And throughout swaths of rural Oklahoma, nonprofits that provide child-abuse prevention services for hundreds of families have halted their programs. Others are looking for alternative funding sources to stay afloat [Oklahoma Watch].

What’s ahead in 2018 for Oklahoma from retail to the polls: A new year brings new challenges for and opportunities for Oklahoma voters who will pick a new governor and decide whether to legalize medical marijuana. Here’s a look at what’s coming up in 2018 [AP].

2018 could be significant for politics in Oklahoma: In the world of Oklahoma politics, 2017 was all about setting the table for 2018 and a slate of elections that will include an embattled state Legislature and several statewide seats, including governor. Coming off a tough election year for Democrats in 2016 that saw the party — both in Oklahoma and across the nation — take it on the chin, the minority party rallied around a series of special elections across the state and flipped four seats [NewsOK].

Prosperity Policy: Misplaced priorities: Congress adjourned last week with Republicans celebrating passage of a tax bill that they rushed through the entire legislative process in under two months. But they continue to drag their heels on two urgent issues that have threatened the well-being of millions for months. One issue is DACA, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, the program that offers young undocumented people who came to this country as children temporary permission to work and live here [David Blatt / Journal Record].

Hunger by the Numbers: How many football stadiums…: This fall, the US Department of Agriculture released its annual report on household food security, which measures the share of households who don’t have enough food to lead an active, healthy life in the last year. For the three-year period from 2014-16, an average of more than 1 in 7 Oklahoma households, or 15.2 percent of the population, experienced food insecurity, the 8th-highest rate in the nation, tied with Indiana. But what does this mean for Oklahoma? [OK Policy]

State licensing should protect consumers, but not restrict the marketplace: In the name of health and safety, Oklahoma law is too aggressive in limiting marketplace competition through employment licensing. A recent study by the Virginia-based Institute for Justice found the state had the 18th most burdensome set of licensing laws in the nation. The study looked at 102 low-income occupations and found Oklahoma insisted on licenses in 41 of them. On average, starting in these jobs costs $234 in fees, 399 days of education and experience and about two exams [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]. Occupational licensing is a growing barrier to Oklahomans who seek a decent job [OK Policy].

Our 10 most popular posts in 2017: When it comes to Oklahoma politics, 2017 was one of the most tumultuous and unpredictable in history. The year was consumed by a long, still unresolved showdown over the state budget and need for new revenues, with shifting coalitions, unusual alliances, and numerous high stakes votes. Throughout the year we did our best to keep you informed and provide the information you need to advocate for constructive solutions [OK Policy].

Once busy Oklahoma death chamber stays quiet into 3rd year: Oklahoma, a state with one of the busiest death chambers in the country in recent decades, will enter its third year without an execution in 2018 while prison officials and state attorneys fine tune its procedure for putting condemned inmates to death. Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said last week he was planning to meet with top prison officials and that he expected more clarity on the state’s new lethal injection protocols “in the next two or three weeks.” [AP]

Oklahoma County jail population hits record low: The population at the Oklahoma County Jail has hit a record low. This comes weeks ahead of an inspection by the U.S. Department of Justice. As of Tuesday, the jail’s population stood at 1,549, according to District Three Chief Deputy Rick Buchanan. The decline is the result of several entities coming together to ensure those who don’t necessarily need to be arrested aren’t being booked into the jail [KOKH].

Fallin to set election date for vote on medical marijuana: After the start of the new year, Governor Mary Fallin has said she plans to set an election date for a medical marijuana ballot measure — State Question 788. The announcement has reignited conversations on both sides of the issue, but those lobbying for the measure and lawmakers agree – when it comes to a vote, the sooner the better. Governor Fallin will determine if the question will appear on the June primary ballot or during the general election in November [Claremore Progress].

Two Oklahoma addiction recovery centers under investigation: The Oklahoma Department of Human Services is investigating possible food-stamp fraud at two unregulated addiction recovery centers. The department’s investigation focuses on Fort Gibson’s Faith Based Therapeutic Community Corporation and the Ada-based Southern Oklahoma Addiction Recovery program, The Oklahoman reported. The probe began after program graduates and other participants alleged they were forced to sign up for food stamps but didn’t receive the benefits [AP].

Legislators’ ‘Officeholder’ Spending of Campaign Funds: Legislators may spend campaign donations on so-called “officeholder expenses”, which can be anything associated with their official duties provided the expenses wouldn’t have occurred if the person weren’t in office. A review of such expenses from January to September 2017 show most of the spending was tied to official duties. But some raised questions, including tickets to athletic events, chambers of commerce banquets and an anniversary ball; trips to conferences and the presidential inauguration, and meals, often with other legislators [Oklahoma Watch].

World Language Classes Vanish from Many Oklahoma High Schools: A fourth of high schools across the state have eliminated world language classes over a decade, erasing the chances for thousands of students to acquire skills that could better prepare them for college and the job market. The number of high schools without a single world language class has nearly quadrupled, from 39 in 2006 to 149 in 2016, according to an Oklahoma Watch analysis of data collected by the state Office of Educational Quality and Accountability. That means a third of Oklahoma high schools now don’t offer a single course [Oklahoma Watch].

Governor’s office releasing records after years of delays: Public records are being made public again by the governor’s office. The office and Governor Mary Fallin are facing three lawsuits over open records access and is working to clear the backlog of requests for records under the Oklahoma Open Records Act. “Efforts to release records in a more timely fashion started last fall, and accelerated this spring under the direction of James Williamson, the governor’s general counsel,” Fallin spokesman Michael McNutt told FOX 25 in an email [KOKH].

Quote of the Day

“We’re hopeful that this large chorus of voices will continue pushing in 2018 for a balanced mix of new permanent revenues so that our teachers will no longer need to cross the border to support their families and Oklahomans with disabilities and senior citizens won’t have to wonder what will happen to their life- sustaining services every few months.”

– OK Policy Legislative Liaison Bailey Perkins, predicting that the bipartisan push for new revenues will continue in 2018 (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma children aged 19 to 35 months who have received all recommended vaccinations, 2017

Source: America’s Health Rankings

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Why millennials are facing the scariest financial future of any generation since the Great Depression: Like everyone in my generation, I am finding it increasingly difficult not to be scared about the future and angry about the past. I am 35 years old—the oldest millennial, the first millennial—and for a decade now, I’ve been waiting for adulthood to kick in. My rent consumes nearly half my income, I haven’t had a steady job since Pluto was a planet and my savings are dwindling faster than the ice caps the baby boomers melted [Huffington Post].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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