In The Know: Oklahoma sees decline in rate of people without health insurance

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.

The rate of Oklahomans without health insurance declined 3.9 percentage points in 2014, but states that accepted federal dollars to expand coverage saw much bigger drops, according to a survey released this week. Arkansas led the country with a 10.1 percentage point decrease — from 22.5 to 12.4. NewsOK looked at how Oklahoma’s Medicaid copay increases are creating hardship for an Oklahoma man who has been unable to work since he broke his back on the job. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed why increasing Medicaid copays is likely to harm Oklahomans’ health without creating any savings in the long run.

With results from the first full-year of the Affordable Care Act’s implementation coming in, the OK Policy Blog assessed the law’s impact on Oklahoma. David Blatt’s Journal Record column argued that it is hard to fathom why Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and Attorney General Scott Pruitt are pursuing a lawsuit to take away affordable health care from 55,000 newly insured Oklahomans. Several Tulsa families have lost in-home nursing care for their children with disabilities due to state cutbacks. The OK Policy Blog previously discussed the devastating delays for care these families face due to the state’s decade-long waiting list.

Public Radio Tulsa shared audio from the numerous panels of state leaders and policy experts who spoke at OK Policy’s 2014 Summer Policy Institute. You can see social media highlights from the Summer Policy Institute compiled on Storify. The latest OK Policy Podcast features some of the best comments made by speakers during the event. The Tulsa World reported on segments at the SPI honoring former Governor Henry Bellmon and sharing firsthand stories of the child migrants that had been housed at Fort Sill. OK Policy previously debunked several myths that had emerged about these children. As of last Thursday all the children have either been transferred to standard shelters or released to sponsors to await immigration proceedings.

Oklahoma collected more tax revenue last month than any July in state history, though that comes before subtracting revenue that will be paid back in tax refunds and tax expenditures. Gov. Mary Fallin’s office appears to be taking a renewed interest in 2012 criminal justice reforms that largely went unimplemented because of politics and a lack of funding. An OK Policy face sheet previously laid out why Oklahoma’s attempts at criminal justice reform so far fall far short of what is needed. The list of K2 drugs deemed illegal by state lawmakers will balloon Nov. 1 with more than 150 identified concoctions marked as Schedule I controlled substances. The OK Policy Blog discussed how lawsuits challenging two major tax cut bills in Oklahoma could hinge on the definition of two small words.

Reuters shared stories from Oklahomans experiencing numerous earthquakes that are likely connected to drilling wastewater disposal. The energy industry has grown to make up nearly 13 percent of the state’s economy. Vox shared charts showing the six state economies most dependent on fossil fuel production. The administrator of the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission wrote in the Oklahoman about the importance of being vigilant in protecting the state’s water resources. The Cherokee Nation and the town of Welch are working together on a study to help provide healthier drinking water for residents in the town.

A panel put on by the Tulsa County Democratic Party argued that women’s health and well-being are being ignored in Oklahoma politics. The Number of the Day is the financial aid grant dollars per undergraduate student provided Oklahoma. In today’s Policy Note, Robert Reich discusses a growing number of corporations being organized to balance the needs of all stakeholders, not just shareholders.

In The News

Oklahoma sees decline in rate of people without health insurance

The rate of Oklahomans without health insurance declined 3.9 percentage points in 2014, but states that took advantage of provisions in the Affordable Care Act saw bigger drops, according to a survey released this week. Oklahoma’s rate of uninsured went from 21.4 percent in 2013 to 17.5 percent by the middle of 2014, according to the state-by-state survey from Gallup. About 69,000 Oklahomans signed up for health insurance on the federal exchange between Oct. 1 and March 31, the deadline for enrollment, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Open enrollment begins again Nov. 15.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Increased Medicaid copayments prove difficult for Oklahoma man

John Thorson used to have no patience for panhandlers or people living on the street. “Get a job,” he would think. Thorson had a good job working construction — until he broke his neck. His life quickly unraveled, and he soon understood how some people end up on corners, begging. “It left me homeless,” he said. “I was living out of the back of my pickup truck.” Thorson was able to get back on his feet, thanks in part to federal and state assistance, although that doesn’t come without its own challenges. Thorson is one of thousands of Oklahomans on the state’s Medicaid program who saw the amount of money they pay for prescriptions increase over the past month.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: More proof that hiking Medicaid copays doesn’t add up from the OK Policy Blog.

Results on the first year of Obamacare are in. What’s it look like for Oklahoma?

The Affordable Care Act’s first open enrollment period, when eligible Americans could compare and purchase health insurance on the online marketplaces, was a bit of a roller coaster. But despite considerable hiccups with the launch of in October, eight million people had signed up nationwide when enrollment closed on March 31st, a number that exceeded earlier estimates. The nationwide uninsured rate has dropped precipitously thanks to the marketplaces and to expansions of Medicaid coverage in states that accepted federal funds. And those with new health insurance coverage report being pleased with it.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Hard to fathom

Tens of thousands of Oklahomans who are receiving tax credits to help pay for health insurance could lose this assistance if a recent federal court ruling is upheld. It’s hard to understand why Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and Gov. Mary Fallin cheered the ruling – or why Oklahoma is pursuing a similar lawsuit. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that individuals purchasing health insurance through marketplaces operated by the federal government under the Affordable Care Act are ineligible for tax credits to help cover the cost of insurance.

Read more from the Journal Record.

Tulsa family speaks out about lack of services for disabled children

For 13-year-old Madison Turner, getting to know a stranger means playing a nonverbal peek-a-boo game. The Edison Middle School student is all smiles and curiosity as she points at objects, pulls at the hands of others and grunts sounds for communication. Although her enthusiasm is contagious, she continues to struggle with physical disabilities and has nearly reached the intellectual development level of a 3-year-old. This is why her parents, Michael and Lisa Turner, have been appealing a recommendation by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to end funding for the teenager’s 8-hour-a-day, in-home nursing services.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: Take a number: Oklahomans with disabilities face devastating delays from the OK Policy Blog.

Audio from the 2014 Oklahoma Summer Policy Institute

This year’s Summer Policy Institute was held August 3-6, 2014 at The University of Tulsa. The event brings together more than 50 highly-qualified undergraduate and graduate students for a four-day learning experience. The Institute is hosted by the staff of OK Policy, a Tulsa-based think-tank guided by core commitments to the fair and adequate funding of public services and the expansion of economic prosperity for all Oklahomans.

Hear more from Public Radio Tulsa.

See also: Summer Policy Institute social media highlights from Storify

OK Policy Podcast: Episode 3

This special episode of our podcast features highlights from the 2014 Summer Policy Institute. Guests this week include Oklahoma Education Association Associate Director Amanda Ewing on challenges facing Oklahoma’s education system; State Treasurer Ken Miller on the state’s budget troubles; Catholic Charities’ Richard Klinge on the immigrant children at Fort Sill; and Cherokee Chief Bill John Baker on the story of the Cherokee Nation since the Trail of Tears.

Hear more from OK Policy.

Oklahoma Policy Institute honors Henry Bellmon

Few political figures had a broader or longer-lasting influence on Oklahoma during the second half of the 20th century than Henry Bellmon. “He thought big,” former state Sen. Penny Williams, a Democrat, said during a Monday panel discussion of Oklahoma’s first Republican governor. “He thought reform and progress should go hand in hand.” The panel discussion followed the presentation of the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s “Good Sense/Good Cents” award to Bellmon’s daughters, Patricia Hoerth and Ann Denny.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Attorney says Central American kids deserve chance to escape violence

A 14-year-old Guatemalan girl was violently raped before deciding to make a journey alone to the United States. A boy watched a neighbor child get his fingers broken by a gang member in front of a crowd as a warning to others about being late on rent. His parents sent him to America the next day. Nearly all the children and youths who came unaccompanied to this country from Central America describe how Mexican police officers shook them down for money to continue their journey north.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: Debunking myths about migrant children at Ft. Sill from the OK Policy Blog.

Immigrant children leave Fort Sill a day early

The temporary shelter for immigrant children at Fort Sill was emptied a day ahead of schedule, the Health and Human Services Department reported Thursday. The Army post near Lawton served as short-term housing for the children at the request of HHS for a little more than seven weeks. As of Thursday, all the children had moved out. The barracks used to house the children will remain available, if needed, through Jan. 31.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma has best July in history for tax revenue

Oklahoma collected more tax revenue last month than any July in state history and the unemployment rate remains well below the national average as the economy continues to surge. “With apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, we’re still doing fine, Oklahoma,” state Treasurer Ken Miller said in a news conference Wednesday. Gross receipts in July topped $992 million, up $68 million, or 7.4 percent, from July 2013. Gross income tax collections showed a 13.4 percent jump and the state’s tax revenue on oil and natural gas production grew by 11.1 percent.

Read more from NewsOK.

Fallin taking another look at Justice Reinvestment Initiative

Gov. Mary Fallin’s office appears to have a renewed interest in a 2012 public safety law that largely went unimplemented because of politics and a lack of funding. In 2012, under the leadership of then-House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, the Legislature passed and Fallin signed House Bill 3052, the highly touted Justice Reinvestment Initiative. It came after months of study and consultation with outside groups and key stakeholders. Other states have seen successes and savings under the process used by Oklahoma to develop JRI, Steele said.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: Oklahoma needs more criminal justice reform from Oklahoma PolicyInstitute.

K2 bedevils law enforcement, prosecutors with ever-changing compounds

Differing variations of leafy substances wrapped in packages with names such as “Black Mr. Devil” sprout up in convenience stores, head shops or mom-and-pop shops and trouble authorities. The drug, K2, and its unassuming names — synthetic marijuana or spice — belie its nasty effects. Steve Kunzweiler, chief of the criminal division of the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office, said the harmful effects, ease of availability and misleading branding of K2 make it an alarming drug.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Definition of two small words could have large consequences

Is a bill that adjusts the tax rates on production of oil and gas a “revenue bill” under the terms of the Oklahoma Constitution? This is the question for the Oklahoma Supreme Court to decide in a challenge filed by Oklahoma City Jerry Fent to HB 2562. Along with a similar challenge to a bill , SB 1246, that cuts the top income tax rate, the Court’s answer could have a dramatic effect on Oklahoma’s fiscal and political landscape.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

‘Houses are bouncing;’ quakes trigger controls on Oklahoma oil industry

Inside the small U-Haul rental office in Guthrie, Oklahoma, Tami Boxley routinely deals with something that once was rare: the rattling, booming roll of the earth. In the last week alone, residents of Guthrie, pop. 10,191, have felt five quakes rock the town a half hour’s drive from Oklahoma City. The most recent rippled through Friday after lunchtime, duly recorded on the “QuakeWatch” application many residents have loaded onto their smartphones. The local newspaper runs a weekly column updating details of the latest quakes.

Read more from Yahoo! News.

Oklahoma’s energy sector continues to grow

The oil and natural gas industry continues to represent a significant portion of the state economy, and that share of the economy continues to grow, according to a report released Thursday from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The report focuses on the country’s mining sector, which is defined as companies that extract crude oil, natural gas, coal or ore. Oklahoma has a few coal and other mining operations, but the vast majority of the state’s mining sector is represented by the oil and natural gas industry. Thursday’s government numbers, however, do not include refining, transportation and other services that support the oil and natural gas industry.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: These 6 states are most dependent on oil, gas, and coal production from Vox

Protection of water is an ongoing concern in Oklahoma

During the more than 30 years that I have worked with the Oklahoma Scenic Rivers Commission, one thing has been consistently clear: We can never step back and say we have sufficient water resources and that the work of protecting our water is finished. If we remain diligent, there will always be work to do. Our population is growing, and with it the demand for clean water.

Read more from NewsOK.

Cherokee Nation partners with town on water study

The Cherokee Nation and the town of Welch are working together on a study to help provide healthier drinking water for residents in the town. The tribe secured $10,000 through the Indian Health Service to assist the town with a $40,000 study. A city grant will fund the remaining costs. A Colorado-based company will use equipment to filter out radium from the town’s water source. The system has been used in other states but is untested in Oklahoma.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Women are ignored in Oklahoma politics, panel tells Tulsa County Democratic Party

Call it feminism. Call it women’s rights. Call it what you will. It doesn’t get much attention in Oklahoma politics. From health care to reproductive services to financial well-being, Oklahoma women are being ignored, a panel at Friday’s Tulsa County Democratic Party monthly luncheon agreed. “To women under 30, I want to say, ‘Run as fast as you can,’ ” said state Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa. “Of course, I don’t do that.”

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Quote of the Day

“If you get cancer — any type of cancer — you get sent to a cancer center and get everything you need. That’s not how it works with developmental and intellectual disabilities, and no one is there to explain it to you.”

-Michael Turner, a Tulsa parent of a child with developmental disabilities. Oklahoma Medicaid in-home nursing services have been cut under a new review process, leaving the Turners and other families scrambling for recourse (Source:

Number of the Day


Financial aid grant dollars per undergraduate student provided by the State of Oklahoma during the 2011-12 academic year. Oklahoma ranks 24th in the nation for state grant dollars per student.

Source: National Association of State Student Grant & Aid Programs.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The rebirth of stakeholder capitalism?

In recent weeks, the managers, employees, and customers of a New England chain of supermarkets called “Market Basket” have joined together to oppose the board of director’s decision earlier in the year to oust the chain’s popular chief executive, Arthur T. Demoulas. Their demonstrations and boycotts have emptied most of the chain’s seventy stores. What was so special about Arthur T., as he’s known? Mainly, his business model. He kept prices lower than his competitors, paid his employees more, and gave them and his managers more authority. Late last year he offered customers an additional 4 percent discount, arguing they could use the money more than the shareholders. In other words, Arthur T. viewed the company as a joint enterprise from which everyone should benefit, not just shareholders. Which is why the board fired him. It’s far from clear who will win this battle. But, interestingly, we’re beginning to see the Arthur T. business model pop up all over the place.

Read more from Robert Reich.

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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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