In The Know: SoonerCare providers get smaller rate cuts, but warn it’s not enough

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

SoonerCare providers get smaller rate cuts, but warn it’s not enough: SoonerCare providers won’t lose as much as they had expected to, but neither they nor the state board that pays them were satisfied with going halfway. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority lost $70 million when the state Supreme Court struck down the $1.50-per-pack cigarette tax. A budget bill at the end of the special session in November restored $22.8 million for the authority, which oversees Oklahoma’s Medicaid program, called SoonerCare [NewsOK]. McCall ousts OHCA chairman [Journal Record]. Frequently asked questions about Oklahoma’s special session [OK Policy]. 

Governor Pushes For Consolidation, But School Leaders Say ‘Administration’ Isn’t Waste: Education leaders in Oklahoma say Gov. Mary Fallin’s executive order on school consolidation oversimplified a very complicated issue. The November 21 order directs school districts that don’t spend at least 60 percent of their budget on instruction to consolidate administrative staff with other districts. A strict interpretation of this rule would force most Oklahoma school districts to cut an administrator, or a support staff person, and then find a way to split that cost with a neighboring district [StateImpact Oklahoma]. Oklahoma still leads the nation for cuts to education [OK Policy]. Two big myths that distort Oklahoma’s education funding debate [OK Policy].

Can small-town Oklahoma be saved by its immigrants? When Soila Medina arrived in rural Texas County, Oklahoma, in the 1990s, the seventh-grader, daughter of two Mexican immigrants, looked around her classroom and saw hardly anybody who looked like her. That is no longer the case. The schools in Guymon, the county seat, are now 70 percent Hispanic and have expanded English as a Second Language (ESL) classes for their students, who at home speak some 27 different languages, from Armenian and Arabic to Burmese and Tagalog [OZY]. The average Oklahoman probably doesn’t know much about Texas County, OK (other than that it is next to Texas) [OK Policy].

The state’s expensive justice tastes are coming due in outrageous corrections costs: Oklahoma has an all-you-can-eat attitude when it comes to putting people in prison, but it only wants to pay for beans and water. The Oklahoma Board of Corrections is once again telling the Legislature that it must pay the true cost of the state’s retributive sentencing laws. The board’s appropriations request for next year: $1.53 billion, including $813 million for two new medium-security prisons [Editorial Writers / Tulsa World]. Oklahoma needs to rethink life sentences [Ashley Nellis and Kevin Armstrong / NewsOK]. What works to stop crime (hint: it’s not incarceration) [OK Policy].

Gov. Fallin says developing budget plan is “taking longer than anticipated”: State leaders say it is taking a little longer than expected to call lawmakers back to the Capitol for a second special session. For two months during the special session, legislators were unable to pass revenue bills out of the House of Representatives. Instead, their final plan was to use state cash and cuts to state agencies to fix the current budget hole. However, Gov. Mary Fallin vetoed that plan and said that lawmakers would be called back to the Capitol for a second special session [KFOR].

Updated: House withdraws subpoenas from three Fallin team members: Thursday, the House of Representative’s new Special Investigative Committee sent subpoenas to the acting director of the Oklahoma Management and Enterprise Services agency, Oklahoma’s secretary of finance and Gov. Mary Fallin’s chief of staff. But Friday, the committee’s chairman, Rep. Josh Cockroft (R-Wanette) announced that the three state employees have agreed to cooperate and that subpoenas have been withdrawn [NonDoc].

Time to reconsider SQ 640: There seems to be an incipient movement inside the Oklahoma Legislature to reconsider the super-majority requirements of State Question 640. “I have heard of multiple people that plan to put forth some kind of measure,” Sen. Jason Smalley, R-Stroud, told the Tulsa World’s Barbara Hoberock recently. The plan is to put it on the ballot next November, he said. We hope so [Editorial Writers / Tulsa World]. It’s time to revisit State Question 640 [OK Policy].

State should modernize laws concerning nurse practitioners: Patients in Oklahoma are frustrated — and with good reason. Health care in Oklahoma ranks among the worst in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report, with the state earning an abysmal 48th out of 50 states for health care overall and 46th for health care access. Despite the state’s well-documented health crisis, the Oklahoma Senate chose to uphold the status quo, stalling a bill that would have finally granted patients direct access to nurse practitioners, strengthening the availability of primary care statewide [Miranda Whitten / Tulsa World].

On World AIDS Day, a call to speak up: In June of 1981, five men walked into a Los Angeles emergency room and were diagnosed with a rare type of skin cancer called Kaposi’s Sarcoma. Over the next several months, dozens more presented with either KS or a similarly rare type of pneumonia, pneumocystis carinii. Questions swirled even as words like “wasting,” “AIDS,” and “death” became used with increased frequency on the evening news [OK Policy].

Oklahoma governor plans to set medical marijuana ballot date: Gov. Mary Fallin says she plans to set an election date for a medical marijuana ballot measure after the start of the new year. Supporters of an initiative petition to ask voters to legalize medical marijuana gathered enough signatures last year to schedule a statewide referendum on the measure, known as State Question 788. If approved by voters, the measure would permit doctors to recommend a patient, who is at least 25 years old, for a state-issued medical marijuana license [NewsOK]. How does SQ 788 compare to other states’ medical marijuana laws? [OK Policy]

Fallin asking for future expansion of gubernatorial powers: Pleas to give the state’s top executive more power are a familiar refrain in the state Capitol halls. With calls becoming commonplace, there is little surprise that Republican Gov. Mary Fallin is now asking legislators to expand the office’s future authority. Fallin, who is serving her final term as governor, wants lawmakers to put a measure before voters allowing her successors to appoint agency directors [CNHI].

Lankford, Inhofe vote for Senate tax cut package: After weeks of consideration and 14 hours of debate Friday, Oklahoma’s two U.S. senators voted after midnight in favor of a major tax cut package that narrowly passed the Senate. While Sen. Jim Inhofe’s vote was unsurprising and never in doubt, Sen. James Lankford’s support hung in the balance for much of the week over his opposition to raising the national debt [NewsOK]. The Congressional tax plan would take Oklahoma’s budget mess national [OK Policy].

The President Who Politicked Oklahoma Back to the Top: College football fans tend to prefer that university presidents be seen, not heard. The University of Oklahoma’s president, David L. Boren, has been a flagrant violator of that precept. He urged a 2006 loss to Oregon be expunged after the Sooners bore the brunt of poor officiating. He pledged in 2011, at the height of conference realignment, that Oklahoma would not be a “wallflower,” leaving open the possibility that it might depart the Big 12 Conference. And in 2015, he gave the league a public diagnosis of “psychologically disadvantaged” after none of its teams qualified for the first College Football Playoff [New York Times].

Quote of the Day

“Any loss of service in rural Oklahoma will likely be lost forever.”

–  Nico Gomez, Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers President and former Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO, following Friday’s OHCA board vote approving rate cuts to SoonerCare providers and nursing homes (Source)

Number of the Day


Number of Oklahoma families receiving early learning home visiting services in 2016, down from 9,156 in 2011

Source: OK State Stat

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Medical marijuana took a bite out of alcohol sales. Recreational pot could take an even bigger one: Alcoholic beverage sales fell by 15 percent following the introduction of medical marijuana laws in a number of states, according to a new working paper by researchers at the University of Connecticut and Georgia State University. The study adds to a growing body of evidence showing that marijuana availability can reduce alcohol consumption. Because experts generally agree that, on balance, alcohol use is more harmful to individuals and society than marijuana use, this would represent a significant public health benefit of marijuana legalization [Washington Post].

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Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

2 thoughts on “In The Know: SoonerCare providers get smaller rate cuts, but warn it’s not enough

  1. Oklahoma should also expand CRNA certified registered nurse anesthetist scope of practice to provide anesthesia services to rural Oklahoma without or limited physician oversight.

  2. Nice Article!!

    Sheila Dills is a leader and innovator in the Tulsa community. She is President of a non-profit, former small business owner, mother, and Christian who will fight for bold reforms in Oklahoma City. Sheila is the leader and servant representative we desperately need in at our Capitol.

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