In The Know: SoonerCare reimbursement could be slashed 9%

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 reimbursement could be slashed 9%: State officials are preparing to cut Medicaid reimbursement rates by 9 percent for many SoonerCare services. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority warned providers and advocacy organizations Tuesday that the rate cut would take effect Dec. 1 unless the Legislature restores $70 million to the agency lost when the Supreme Court struck down a cigarette tax. Cutting reimbursement rates is a lengthy process. The authority has scheduled a public hearing for Nov. 2 [NewsOK].

House leadership calling members back to Oklahoma Capitol: Oklahoma House members are being told to make plans for a return to special session next week. In an email obtained by The Oklahoman, Majority Floor Leader Jon Echols asked fellow Republicans to be on the House floor at 1 p.m. Monday. The email signals that lawmakers may be close to reaching a deal to close a $215 million budget shortfall caused when the Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down the Legislature’s attempt at taxing cigarettes this year [NewsOK]. Lawmakers must use special session to fix the budget, not pass the buck [OK Policy].

Two big myths that distort Oklahoma’s education funding debate: Some lawmakers continue to resist admitting that Oklahoma needs to increase revenues for education — especially if it means raising taxes. Lawmakers and anti-tax interest groups have felt the pressure from the large numbers of Oklahomans upset about what’s happening in public schools, so they put a lot of energy into coming up with excuses for why more revenues are not the answer. They have manipulated data and cherry-picked numbers to claim that lack of funding isn’t the problem. Here are two big myths that have distorted Oklahoma’s education funding debate [OK Policy].

Top 10 Reasons Oklahoma Should Restore 2% Gross Production Tax Rate to 7%: Even at 7% GPT, Oklahoma’s effective rate on oil and gas production would still be the lowest overall tax rate of any major oil and gas state. Much of that is due to the fact that Oklahoma doesn’t levy ad valorem tax on oil and gas minerals in place. Almost all other major producing states do have property tax on minerals [Oklahoma Energy Producers Alliance]. It’s time to end the special tax break for oil and gas producers [OK Policy].

Reanimated cigarette tax becomes political football: After it was deemed unconstitutional, the cigarette tax again walks among the living at the Oklahoma Capitol – at least, for now. There is plenty of optimism among lawmakers – seated, but having convened for less than half an hour since Sept. 25 – that the $1.50 per pack cigarette tax will be approved. Less clear are what conditions may be attached. Democrats in the House of Representatives want agreements on other sources of “renewable” revenue in exchange for their support of the cigarette tax [Tahlequah Daily Press].

Save Our State Launches In Lawton: A coalition of state and local residents was in Lawton Tuesday to stir community interest in the state budget crisis. Lawton was the inaugural site for Save Our State’s series of community meetings centered on its Blueprint for a Better Budget. SOS is a non-partisan coalition of organizations whose membership ranges from teachers and other state employees to those interested in mental health and state policy. Despite their diversity, members share a common goal: bringing state residents into the discussion to find solutions to Oklahoma’s budget [Lawton Constitution].

Fumbling at the Capitol: Members of the do-nothing Oklahoma Legislature went home last week, leaving the budget $215 million out of balance and three state agencies quickly spending their way into insolvency. Lawmakers are expected to resume their efforts to repair the state budget hole next week, but so far all we’ve seen is an unwillingness to compromise and a lack of the creativity needed to work through problems [Editorial Board / Tulsa World].

Oklahomans watch for Congress to act on insurance, health centers: Oklahoma health providers are watching Washington for action on a raft of programs that fund community health centers and children’s health insurance. The House Commerce and Energy Committee is scheduled to take up bills Wednesday that would extend funding for federally qualified health centers and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Funding authorization for both programs expired Saturday. The bills also include funding for smaller health programs, including one that targets American Indian patients at risk for diabetes [NewsOK].

State Department of Education Sees Bump in Summer Food Program Participation: The numbers are in, and the State Department of Education calls Oklahoma’s summer feeding program a success. Participation in the federally funded program was up 14 percent this year. That means 1.6 million free meals went to kids between May and August. State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister said it wasn’t easy with education funding cuts preventing schools from offering summer sessions, which bring kids to meals [Public Radio Tulsa].

DOC plan to release some nonviolent offenders does not get endorsement of Gov. Fallin: Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin “did not endorse” the department of corrections’ plan to begin the “supervised release” of some prisoners convicted of nonviolent crimes, her press secretary told The Frontier. Last week Oklahoma Department of Corrections officials announced they were implementing a program in which some nonviolent offenders with less than 18 months left on their sentences and who met a number of other criteria would be considered for release [The Frontier]. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections announced the plan last week [NewsOK].

Claremore pushes back on ‘inmate farm’ rumors: Claremore officials are trying to tap down on rumors about an “inmate farm” being built on 95 acres of city-owned property north of town, where the only definite plans at the moment involve garbage, not prisoners. With the Rogers County jail overcrowded, officials have indeed floated the idea of building a facility for non-violent offenders, who would use the land to grow fruits and vegetables that could then be consumed at the county jail [Tulsa World].

Oklahoma Supreme Court Strikes Part of Workers’ Comp. Law: A divided Oklahoma Supreme Court has overturned part of Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation law concerning how workers are compensated for their on-the-job injuries. The court handed down the 5-3 decision with one recusal on Tuesday in a lawsuit filed by Hobby Lobby Stores employee Brandon Gibbon, who was injured in a fall at work in 2014. The ruling says Hobby Lobby provided temporary total disability and medical benefits, but objected when Gibbon sought permanent partial disability, claiming the law’s forfeiture provision prohibited him further benefits because he had missed medical appointments without a valid excuse [Associated Press].

Interim study on passenger rail picks up momentum: Discussions about passenger rail in Oklahoma turned to practical matters of speed and money Tuesday when a Tulsa lawmaker brought a contractor to the state Capitol to talk numbers. Government officials, economic developers and industry experts have been talking about high-speed rail options for months. Argument points are nearly as predictable as a train schedule: Supporters say the transportation could help the state in several ways, but opponents point out that it’s difficult to estimate costs and financing [Journal Record].

Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Joseph Watt plans to retire: Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Joseph Watt plans to retire at the end of the year after 25 years on the state’s highest court. The 70-year-old Watt announced his retirement, effective on Dec. 31, in a letter to Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday. Former Gov. David Walters appointed Watt to the Supreme Court on May 17, 1992, and he has served two terms as chief justice, from 2003 until 2007 [KFOR].

Native American trade regulations due for changes: Work is in progress to update federal regulations over Native American traders, which could affect Oklahoma tribes. A notice was published in February to announce the discussion about changes to the Indian Trader Regulations [Journal Record].

Quote of the Day

“Right now, we get paid about $20 less per day than what it costs to take care of that [Medicaid recipient]. We’re able to make up some of that through a small percentage of people who privately pay and a small percentage of Medicare. You get to a point where you can no longer pay staff or no longer afford to stay in regulatory compliance, and you have to shut the door.”

– Nico Gomez, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Association of Health Care Providers, calling the effects of a potential 9 percent cut to Medicaid provider reimbursement rates “heartbreaking” (Source)

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahomans served by the public mental health system who were employed, 2015

Source: SAMHSA

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

What Older Americans Stand to Lose if ‘Dreamers’ Are Deported: In health care, the economic impact of rescinding DACA could be significant, depriving patients of help they depend on and driving up costs for families and taxpayers. Surveys of DACA beneficiaries reveal that roughly one-fifth of them work in the health care and educational sector, suggesting a potential loss of tens of thousands of workers from in-demand job categories like home health aide and nursing assistant. At the same time, projections by the government and advocacy groups show that the economy will need to add hundreds of thousands of workers in these fields over the next five to 10 years simply to keep up with escalating demand, caused primarily by a rapidly aging population [New York Times].

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Ryan Gentzler worked at OK Policy from January 2016 until November 2022. He last served as the organization's Reserach Director and oversaw Open Justice Oklahoma. He began at OK Policy as an analyst focusing on criminal justice issues, including sentencing, incarceration, court fines and fees, and pretrial detention. Open Justice Oklahoma grew out of Ryan’s groundbreaking analysis of court records, which was used to inform critical policy debates. A native Nebraskan, he holds a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Oklahoma and a BA in Institutions and Policy from William Jewell College. He served as an OK Policy Research Fellow in 2014-2015.

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