In The Know: Premium prices for Oklahoma Health Marketplace revealed

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 premium prices for Oklahoma’s new Affordable Care Act marketplace have been announced. The costs for an average plan compare favorably with other states, with most policies costing $200 to $700 a month, before tax credits. A Texas company is declining a navigator grant to help Oklahomans understand and enroll in insurance on the marketplace because opponents of the law are making the job too difficult. The Tulsa World reported on young Oklahomans without health insurance who ended up in severe health problems and bankruptcy.

More than $1.6 million in state public school funds was paid last year to send 220 special-needs students to private schools. An Oklahoma County judge ruled that the state Corrections Department must pay more to house inmates in county jails. Over the last two decades, drunk driving deaths increased by 10 percent in Oklahoma, even as they fell by 20 percent nationwide.

An analyst from Headwaters Economics writes in NewsOK about why Oklahoma would benefit from ending tax breaks for horizontal drilling. A report by Headwaters showed that Oklahoma taxes this type of drilling far less than other states, and even after eliminating the credit our tax rates would still be lower than many states. Chesapeake Energy laid out a new organizational structure amid multiple reports of layoffs at the company.

The number of Oklahomans registering to vote as independents this year has outpaced registrations of both the Republican and Democrat parties. The Number of the Day is the percentage growth in the purchase price of a residential home in Oklahoma since 2000. In today’s Policy Note, new research shows that school field trips to art museums improve critical thinking, historical empathy, and tolerance, but financial pressures and emphasis on standardized tests are making them rare.

In The News

Premium prices for Oklahoma Health Marketplace revealed

Three large insurance companies are planning to offer health policies to individual Oklahomans at rates ranging from less than $100 to more than $1,000 per month through the new insurance marketplace being set up under the Affordable Care Act. The Oklahoma figures appear to compare favorably with Affordable Care Act rates in other states. Aetna, for example, said it will charge $302 a month for a benchmark “silver” plan sold to a 40-year-old non-smoker living in the seven-county Oklahoma City metropolitan area. Coventry is offering a similar plan for $339. Those figure are close to the $320 average that the Congressional Budget Office projected for benchmark silver plans nationwide.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

Group returns grant to help Oklahomans understand new health options due to GOP obstruction

A company that has for decades helped people enroll in Medicaid says it won’t be able to sign up people for insurance under the new Affordable Care Act because there is too much scrutiny over a so-called navigator program. According to an email, Texas-based Cardon Outreach’s chief legal officer Charles Kable told the federal government the company was returning more than $800,000 in federal grant money. The funds were supposed to be used to hire people in Oklahoma and three other states to help explain the intricacies of health insurance to millions of people who aren’t covered. While the email didn’t go into specifics, some have said those opposed to the health-care law, mostly Republicans, are making it difficult for some of the navigator programs to get off the ground.

Read more from the Associated Press.

Young people not immune from risk of being uninsured

Lindsay Kline ignored the throbbing pain in the side of her face for days, until it became unbearable. At 22 with a job as a waitress and no health insurance, Kline couldn’t afford a trip to the doctor. But when she began vomiting uncontrollably and the swollen area on her face “looked like a softball,” Kline went to the emergency room. Doctors in the ER told her an untreated abscessed tooth sparked a systemic infection that could have killed her if she had waited much longer. That trip to the ER and other medical bills piled up over the next year until Kline was forced to file bankruptcy at age 23. Her medical bills totaled more than $18,000.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Oklahoma vouchers for special needs students totaled $1.6 million last year

More than $1.6 million in state public school funds was paid last year to send 220 special-needs students to private schools under a 3-year-old law, nearly a year after surviving a state Supreme Court challenge. The state spent $969,166 for 148 students the previous year, state figures show. State Rep. Jason Nelson, who is co-author of the bill that created the voucher program, said it has exceeded his expectations, both in the number of children using it and the positive reports he hears from parents.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Corrections Department may have to pay more to house inmates in county jails

The state Corrections Department may soon be paying more to house the growing number of inmates languishing in county jails. A lawsuit filed in June 2012 by the Bryan County Board of Commissioners sought to force the prison system to pay more than the current per diem rate for housing inmates sentenced to terms in state-run prisons. It also claimed that using county funds to pay for inmates’ care — if the cost exceeds the amount allowed under current Oklahoma law — is a violation of the state’s constitution. Oklahoma County District Judge Patricia Parrish on Friday ruled in favor of the county commissioners, although prison officials say they will appeal the decision.

Read more from NewsOK.

Unlike nation, Oklahoma is failing to reduce drunken driving deaths

During most of the past two decades, the annual number of alcohol-related traffic deaths across the country has fallen by about 20 percent, to more than 11,500. More stringent drunken driving laws, widespread public education campaigns and safer vehicles have all played a role in that sharp reduction. In Oklahoma, however, it’s been a much different story. Despite having the same safer vehicles, increased educational efforts and tougher laws, the state saw a 10 percent increase in alcohol-related traffic deaths between 1994 and 2012.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

Oklahoma would benefit from ending drilling credit

Oil and natural gas production in Oklahoma is on the rise. New horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies have allowed companies to cost-effectively extract “unconventional” oil and gas trapped inside tight shale rocks. While these greater investments and activity result in more job opportunities, they also impose greater demands on roads, public safety, housing and other local government services. Oklahoma’s gross production tax raises revenue to facilitate development and mitigate these impacts, but as a result of generous tax subsidies, it’s proving to be too little to pay for these services. The state continues to face budget shortfalls.

Read more from NewsOK.

See also: Comparing state taxes on unconventional oil and gas production from Oklahoma Policy Institute

Cheasapeake reorganizes amid layoff reports

Chesapeake Energy Corp. laid out a new organizational structure Tuesday amid multiple reports of layoffs at the Oklahoma City-based oil and natural gas company. Chesapeake has declined to comment on possible layoffs, but email accounts for several company employees are no longer active. Chairman Archie Dunham hinted at possible job reductions last summer. He said Chesapeake’s cost structure should be on par with peers that had about half as many employees as Chesapeake last year, despite much larger market capitalizations.

Read more from NewsOK.

More new voters register as independents

Since state Election Board officials removed about 145,294 inactive voters from the rolls earlier this year, something odd has occurred. The number of independent voters registering to vote since the purge has outpaced registrations of both the Republican and Democrat parties. Independents have added 4,582 new voters to their ranks since the March purge, a World analysis of voter records indicates. Republicans have added 1,544 new voters. Democrats, meanwhile, have seen their ranks shrink by 3,306 voters.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Quote of the Day

This is an enormous change. Now everybody has the assurance regardless of their health condition that they can get coverage … It’s the largest change with respect to health insurance since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.

-Oklahoma Deputy Insurance Commissioner Mike Rhoads (Source:

Number of the Day

45.2 percent

Percentage growth in the purchase price of a residential home in Oklahoma since 2000, just slightly more than growth in national home prices (42.6 percent)

Source: Federal Housing Finance Agency, 2000-2013

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The educational value of field trips

The school field trip has a long history in American public education. For decades, students have piled into yellow buses to visit a variety of cultural institutions, including art, natural history, and science museums, as well as theaters, zoos, and historical sites. Schools gladly endured the expense and disruption of providing field trips because they saw these experiences as central to their educational mission: schools exist not only to provide economically useful skills in numeracy and literacy, but also to produce civilized young men and women who would appreciate the arts and culture.

Read more from Education Next.

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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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