In The Know: Oklahoma health insurance marketplace opens

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’s nearly 640,000 residents without health insurance now have a place to shop for coverage on the federal health insurance marketplace. Oklahomans are working through bugs and heavy traffic at on the first day of enrollment. Oklahomans can sign up for insurance any time over the next six months, and coverage will begin January 1. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote an op-ed for the Tulsa World on how the Affordable Care Act is benefitting Oklahoma. A 26-year-old Oklahoman non-profit director wrote in how lawmakers’ shutting down the Affordable Care Act could cost her life.

KGOU shared the audio of a panel on poverty and the safety net during OK Policy’s Summer Policy Institute. KGOU previously shared the SPI panel on Oklahoma politics. A work requirement to receive food stamps goes into effect today for Oklahomans without dependendents or a disability. The OK Policy Blog shared a story of what it’s like trying to feed a family on food stamps.

With a government shutdown underway, federal offices in Oklahoma have been drafting contingency plans and preparing to furlough workers. Gov. Mary Falln penned a letter with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper warning of severe consequences of a federal government shutdown. Former Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating wrote in the Washington Post that not raising the federal debt limit would be an economic catastrophe.

SAT scores for Oklahoma students increased this year, but scores for the ACT test, which is taken be many more students in Oklahoma, remained flat. Tulsa Public Schools has been awarded a $4.4 million, five-year federal grant for the development of new leaders for high-need schools. An Oklahoma appeals court ruled that a new law requiring an automatic felony charge for a second drunk-driving arrest cannot be applied retroactively to first offenses before the law was passed.

The Number of the Day is the percentage of Oklahomans who are uninsured. In today’s Policy Note, the Washington Post lists what services are open and what’s closed during the federal government shutdown.

In The News

Oklahoma health insurance marketplace opens

Oklahoma’s nearly 640,000 residents without health insurance soon will have a place to shop for coverage, but they shouldn’t expect much help from state officials. Because Oklahoma opted not to create a state-based exchange for consumers to shop for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, a new federal Health Insurance Marketplace was created that goes live today. Consumers can begin shopping, comparing and buying health insurance plans online at or in person with help of trained navigators and counselors. State employees have been directed not to answer questions about the new federal exchange, but instead to direct citizens to federal officials.

Read more from the Associated Press.

Oklahoma insurers working through marketplace bugs

While federal officials continued public assurances that online enrollment in the Affordable Care Act would open as planned Tuesday, the president of one insurer said the company has been unable to test the site for days. CommunityCare President and CEO Richard Todd said the company has tried to test the online exchange where consumers are supposed to begin enrolling in coverage Tuesday but has experienced technical issues for the past week. CommunityCare is one of five insurance companies offering coverage through Oklahoma’s federally operated exchange and one of two offering only health maintenance organization plans.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: What you need to know about Oklahoma’s new Health Insurance Marketplace from Oklahoma Policy Institute

Kathleen Sebelius: Better options for better health

This January, millions of Americans will ring in the New Year with the security and peace-of-mind that has eluded them for decades: They will finally have quality health insurance. For more than 646,000 of our fellow citizens in Oklahoma, the opportunity to obtain new, quality coverage will only be a click, call, or conversation away when the six-month open enrollment period for the new Health Insurance Marketplace begins Tuesday. Meanwhile, the 85 percent of Americans who currently have coverage will continue to benefit from new rights and legal protections.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Open letter to lawmakers: The human cost of attempting to shut down Obamacare

Dear lawmakers currently attempting to shut down Obamacare, My name is Kendall Brown. I am a 26-year-old, college graduate with a full-time job. I am the Executive Director of a statewide arts organization in Oklahoma and the organizer of a monthly event in Oklahoma City that is open to the public and provides entertainment to thousands of people each third Friday of the month. And I am dying, because of the political games you are playing right now.

Read more from

Supporting the safety net: Examining poverty in Oklahoma

Census Bureau data released in September show that one in six Oklahomans were a part of a family falling below the poverty line – $19,090 for a three-person household. Eileen Bradshaw, the Executive Director of the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma, says there’s a tightrope to walk between having enough food, but also finding food with high nutritional quality. Former House Speaker Kris Steele said the stereotype that those impacted by poverty are lazy, unmotivated, and unwilling to learn is a myth. Steele and Bradshaw spoke on a panel addressing poverty and the safety net during the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s Summer Policy Institute.

Listen to the panel discussion from KGOU.

See also: SPI panel on Oklahoma politics

New SNAP restrictions go into effect today

An eligibility change went into effect today for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as “food stamps.” Able-bodied adults without dependents are required to work a minimum of 20 hours a week to receive SNAP benefits, said Mark Beutler, Oklahoma Department of Human Services spokesperson. OKDHS applied for a waiver in 2009 to allow more people to receive SNAP benefits during the height of the recession. This waiver expired Monday night. Authored by Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, House Bill 1909 was signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin in May to enforce new SNAP eligibility requirements. The law prohibits Oklahoma from ever applying for a waiver again, even when a waiver is offered.

Read more from the Edmond Sun.

The Hunger Games: Feeding a family with food stamps

“Come on over and let’s talk,” she said. I had asked Marisha Wiggins to talk with me about her experiences with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, so I joined the Wiggins’ for dinner. I arrive as the family gets home from work and school. Marisha sweeps through the living room like a whirlwind, picking up toys and whipping up a meal while issuing orders to her two kids (ages 6 and 7). “Three hundred and forty-seven dollars. That’s my monthly SNAP benefit,” Marisha reports. “I work full-time, when my job will give me the hours. I make $8 an hour. The way DHS figures the money, I’m supposed to add $120 of my own money to the $347 they give us for groceries.” How does that work out, I ask her. “Ha! It doesn’t work out at all. Food isn’t the only thing I have to pay for.”

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Federal agencies in Oklahoma prepare for shutdown

With a government shutdown underway, federal offices in Oklahoma have been drafting contingency plans and preparing to furlough workers. Several federal agencies employ Oklahomans, including the Federal Aviation Administration, the Social Security Administration, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Tinker Air Force Base. James Schmidt, president of the American Federation for Government Employees Local 916, said many of the Tinker employees he represents have already seen 20 percent of their work days furloughed in the last six weeks, and the possibility of missing more work leaves them in financially tough situations.

Read more from NewsOK.

Governor Fallin warns of sever consequences of government shutdown

Gov. Mary Fallin, chairman of the National Governors Association, penned a letter with Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper today to congressional leaders warning of severe consequences of a federal government shutdown. Because Congress has not been able to pass a budget, federal agencies ran out of money at midnight.

Read more from NewsOK.

Frank Keating: We can’t afford to default on the debt

In this country, our word is our bond. The respect and admiration that the United States and its institutions inspire around the world are based on the certainty that when our nation makes a promise, we keep it. Unfortunately, Congress seems poised to undermine U.S. credibility at home and abroad by taking the extraordinary step of reneging on bills that our nation has racked up. Ordinary Americans will bear the brunt of the damage if our leaders don’t prevent the United States from defaulting on its debt for the first time in history.

Read more from the Washington Post.

Oklahoma’s SAT scores edge up as fewer students take the exam; ACT score less flattering

In contrast to stagnant scores nationwide, Oklahoma’s SAT scores edged up this year, according to data released Thursday by the College Board, the organization that administers the test. Oklahoma also topped the national average on the exam, according to data. Overall, fewer of this year’s graduating seniors took the test than last year. But more of Oklahoma’s American Indian and Hispanic graduating seniors took the test than last year. But Oklahoma’s scores on the more popular ACT were less flattering. According to data released last month, more than a quarter of the Oklahoma graduating seniors who took the test were unprepared for college-level work in any subject the test covers.

Read more from NewsOK.

Tulsa Public Schools gets $4.4 million federal grant for leadership program

Tulsa Public Schools has been awarded a $4.4 million, five-year federal grant for the development of new leaders for high-need schools. It was one of 20 school districts, colleges or universities and nonprofit organizations selected by the U.S. Department of Education for its school leadership grant program. Tulsa Public Schools will receive $990,874 for the 2013-14 school year and $861,026 in each of the subsequent four years, for a total of $4,434,982. Tulsa Public Schools leaders said the grant will provide training for all school leaders, plus help the district redefine the position of assistant principal.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma appeals court rules in favor of some facing second DUI charge

Hundreds of drunken driving cases across Oklahoma will be treated as misdemeanors rather than felonies because of an appellate court ruling Monday, attorneys said. Those affected by the ruling include former Oklahoma City Councilman Ronald “Skip” Kelly. He was charged in January 2012 with felony DUI after his second drunken driving arrest in less than three years. Kelly, was charged with a felony because of a law that took effect Nov. 1, 2011. The law requires an automatic felony charge in a second DUI case if a defendant pleaded guilty or no contest within 10 years of the first such offense. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Monday in a different driver’s case that the law cannot be applied retroactively in cases where the defendant completed a deferred sentence.

Read more from NewsOK.

Quote of the Day

I don’t tell you this to make you feel sorry for me, Mr. or Mrs. lawmaker. I tell you this because I am tired of being reduced to a number, a statistic or, even worse, being described as a freeloader that wants to live off of the government health care teat. I tell you this because if you defund Obamacare, or delay it even for one year, as you are debating today, then this will be my last letter to you. I will be dead before my 27th birthday.

-Kendall Brown, Executive Director of Individual Artists of Oklahoma, who has been unable to purchase health insurance to treat her Crohns’ Disease because she is denied for a pre-existing condition (Source:

Number of the Day


The percentage of Oklahomans who are uninsured, compared to 15.4 percent nationally in 2012

Source: Joint Economic Committee

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Government shutdown: What’s opened, what’s closed

A look at the the facilities that will be open and the services that would remain available in the event of a government shutdown.

Read more from the Washington Post.

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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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