In The Know: Federal health law aside, state looks to roll back coverage

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.

Check out OK Policy’s resources for the Legislative session, including the Legislative Primer and Online Budget Guide.

Today In The News

Federal Health Law Aside, State Looks to Roll Back Coverage: Almost all eyes are on Washington as President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans try to reverse, and then replace, the Affordable Care Act. Amid the national uncertainty, state policymakers also are exploring moves that could affect health care for hundreds of thousands of people across Oklahoma, by loosening what types of coverage insurers are required to provide. [Oklahoma Watch]

Budget scenario means closed offices, fewer services says OPEA: Implementation of another budget cut in Fiscal Year 2018 would force state agencies like the Department of Human Services, Department of Mental Health and the State Department of Health to close local offices across Oklahoma and would cripple core services, according to the Oklahoma Public Employees Association (OPEA). “The only way for some agencies to make significant reductions is to close offices and turn out the lights,” said OPEA Executive Director Sterling Zearley. [Edmond Sun]

Oklahoma should increase its cigarette tax, for kids and health: Oklahoma lawmakers have an exceptional opportunity to improve the state’s health and economy by supporting House Bill 1841, which would increase the state cigarette tax by $1.50 per pack. This critical action will prevent kids from smoking, prompt smokers to quit and reduce medical expenses associated with smoking, saving the state hundreds of millions of dollars. [Matthew Myers/ NewsOK]  Though the cigarette tax is regressive, increasing it could be a net benefit to low- and moderate-income Oklahomans [OK Policy].

Save AmeriCorps funding, for Tulsa’s sake: Today, I’m in my third year of teaching at McClure Elementary School in south Tulsa, working with students who face the many challenges of educational inequity, striving daily to overcome their adversities. This dream wouldn’t be possible without Teach For America — an AmeriCorps program that helped me get my start in the classroom. However, federal funding for AmeriCorps is under threat of elimination. [Denita White / Tulsa World]

Anatomy of a felony: Like a living organism, the criminal justice system has an anatomy — an anatomy that is well studied and well known to its juris doctors, yet complex. The process for a person who has been arrested in connection with committing a felony starts with rights outlined in the U.S. Constitution meant to protect people both foreign and domestic. “Our rights are so valuable because of the price that has been paid for them,” said Norman attorney David Smith. “If we don’t take care of these rights, then those veterans died for nothing.” [Norman Transcript] On the OK PolicyCast, we discussed how the criminal justice system really works with a Tulsa County public defender [OK Policy].

Oklahoman works to combat stigma and help people find mental health treatment: Bianca Thompson hopes for a more compassionate world. As an Oklahoman living with a mental health diagnosis, Thompson hears stigmatizing language from friends, family and in media. When Thompson tells a friend that she has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, they’ll often respond, “But you seem so normal.” Thompson has grown to hate the word “normal.” [NewsOK]

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett: ‘We can’t look at the mental health issue and say we’re succeeding’: Oklahoma is not succeeding in addressing the mental health needs of its residents. Oklahoma has historically spent among the least in the country on its mental health system. Because of a lack of treatment options and long waiting lines for care, many Oklahomans with serious mental illnesses cycle in and out of county jails. [NewsOK]

State makes progress on foster care program, but more work is to be done: It’s sometimes difficult to recognize progress for Oklahoma as it deals with the constant series of problems stemming from the intentional underfunding of state government. In that darkness, however, is some good news. During a recent stop in Tulsa, Gov. Mary Fallin announced that the state now has its fewest children in state custody in a “long, long time.” [Tulsa World]

Possible deportation causes anxiety for church members, Oklahoma clergy say: Fear of being detained and deported while going to or from church has caused some immigrants to skip worship services altogether, some Oklahoma clergy say.  The Rev. Don Wolf, pastor of St. Eugene Catholic Church, said he has heard that some of his members have stopped attending services due to deportation anxiety, while others are altering their routine in other ways to avoid detection. [NewsOK]

Vision, not demonization, is needed in immigration debate: One example of why U.S. immigration laws need to be improved can be found in a recent story in The Oklahoman about immigrants’ impact on Oklahoma’s economy. Included in the story was an anecdote about an Oklahoma resident, Akash Patel, who whose parents were from India. Patel was born in England. He said it took the three of them 22 years to become U.S. citizens. Twenty-two years! There has to be a better way. [Editorial Board / NewsOK]

Year-over-year employment mixed, figures show: Enid had more nonfarm employees on payrolls in January 2017 than it did in the same month in 2016. According to non-adjusted numbers released March 17, the area posted a net gain of about 100 jobs, while other metropolitan areas of the state, most notably Oklahoma City and Tulsa, experienced declines numbering in the thousands. The jobs data was released as part of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Metropolitan Area Employment and Unemployment news release for January. [The Oklahoman]

STDs making a comeback in Oklahoma: People don’t want to think about. If sexually transmitted disease crosses their minds, it usually is with a confident, “It won’t happen to me.” But Mendy Spohn, Carter, Jefferson, Johnston, Love, Marshall and Stephens County Health Department administrator, says STDs are a real problem. It’s happening to real people. It’s happening to good people. It’s happening right here, right now. [The Daily Ardmoreite]

Lankford and Inhofe’s absence doesn’t deter Oklahoma town hall: Oklahoma’s U.S. Senators — James Lankford and Jim Inhofe — didn’t plan any public town hall meetings for the legislative recess. So, Indivisible Oklahoma decided to host one for them. Hundreds of Oklahomans gathered Saturday evening in the auditorium at Rose State College to voice their concerns about health care, education, the environment and more. A panel was there to hear them. There were name cards at the table for Lankford and Inhofe, but their seats remained empty. Oklahoma City resident Mary Surbech said that says “everything you need to know about how much they care.” [Norman Transcript]

Quote of the Day

“I feel like people would be playing Russian roulette if they (insurers) are arbitrarily left to pick what coverages they want to provide. I don’t think they (proponents of relaxing mandates) understand it’s going to cripple the health care system, put us way back, and ultimately it’s going to be to the detriment of the patients.”

Sam Blackstock, Executive Vice President of the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians, on the dangers posed by two bills currently under consideration by the Oklahoma Legislature that would allow insurers to offer plans without certain coverage requirements. [Source]

Number of the Day

5 months

Number of consecutive months that Oklahoma’s corporate income tax has brought in zero dollars to the General Revenue Fund, as of February 2017.

Source: OK Policy analysis of Office of Management and Enterprise Services reports

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How to Beat the Robots:  Maybe the automation of jobs will eventually create new, better jobs. Maybe it will put us all out of work. But as we argue about this, work is changing. Today’s jobs — white collar, blue collar or no collar — require more education and interpersonal skills than those in the past. And many of the people whose jobs have already been automated can’t find new ones. Technology leads to economic growth, but the benefits aren’t being parceled out equally. Policy makers have the challenge of helping workers share the gains. That will take at least some government effort, just as it did when the United States moved from an agricultural economy to an industrial one, with policies like high school for all or workers’ rights. [NY Times]

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Courtney Cullison worked for OK Policy from 2017 to 2020 as a policy analyst focused on issues of economic opportunity and financial security. Before coming to OK Policy, Courtney worked in higher education, holding faculty positions at the University of Texas at Tyler and at Connors State College in eastern Oklahoma. A native Oklahoman, she received an Honors B.A. in Political Science from Oklahoma State University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. with emphasis in congressional politics and public policy from the University of Oklahoma. While at OU, Courtney was a fellow at the Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center. As a professor she taught classes in American politics, public policy, and research methods and conducted original research with a focus on the relationship between representatives and the constituents they serve.

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