The Weekly Wonk: Gov.’s health care proposal ‘bad choice’ for Oklahoma; shoring up unemployment; and more

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

Weekly What’s That

Medicaid waiver

Waivers are way for states to test and implement new ways of administering Medicaid or CHIP services. If states want to change aspects of their Medicaid program beyond what is typically allowed, they have to get approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a federal agency within the US Department of Health and Human Services. Although CMS is fairly flexible in what it will allow for waivers, certain elements are non-negotiable: among others, the plan implemented under the waiver can’t cost more than care without the waiver; and certain groups (infants and children, individuals with disabilities) at certain income levels must be covered.

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

Quote of the Week

“We take our responsibility very, very seriously to make sure we are representing the people of Oklahoma, and I believe this week that when we have had almost 100 percent of Democrats and Republicans saying this is the path we want to go forward (…) I believe that the executive branch, (Budget Secretary Mike) Mazzei, needs to be working with us as well. So are there concerns there? Yes.”

-Senate Appropriations and Budget Chairman Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, speaking about budget dispute with Gov. Stitt [NonDoc

Editorial of the Week

Unprecedented powers warrant intense scrutiny

(Majority Floor Leader Jon) Echols said lawmakers were willing to give Stitt these enormous powers “because we have faith in him to do what’s best for the citizens of Oklahoma.” We would hope that would be the case during a health crisis like the one presented by rapid spread of the novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease, but that cannot be taken for granted…

It will be the job of lawmakers who granted the governor this authority to ensure the governor acts in good faith and in accordance with legislative intent. Journalists and citizen activists must be the watchdogs who keep in check the legislative and executive branches of state government and ensure the members of each act within constitutional and ethical constraints set for them. 

[Muskogee Phoenix]

Numbers of the Day

  • 452 – Number of commutations announced Friday by Gov. Kevin Stitt to reduce prison overcrowding during the pandemic.
  • $302.1 million – Amount from the state Rainy Day Fund that lawmakers have requested be used this fiscal year to address funding shortfalls due to the pandemic. The Governor and lawmakers are at odds over funding for the state’s digital transformation project, one of his priority projects.
  • 41.4% – Oklahoma response rate for 2020 Census, as of April 9, 2020.
  • 1,160 – Number of evictions files in Oklahoma as of April 7 since Oklahoma’s emergency declaration on March 15.
  • $1.15 billion – Estimated annual increase in federal funding Oklahoma would receive from Medicaid expansion
  • 691 – Number of inactive licensed child care providers in the state due to COVID-19 out of approximately 2,600, or a loss of 37,399 slots.
  • 167,000 – At least this number of Oklahoma’s 700,000 students don’t have home internet access, according to survey results from 546 Oklahoma’s K-12 school districts.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Grocery workers are keeping Americans alive during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s what they need. [Brookings Institute]
  • She’s 10, homeless and eager to learn. But she has no internet. [New York Times]
  • As economy struggles amid coronavirus, low-wage workers of color taking a major hit. [NBC News]
  • Renters are in a much tougher spot than homeowners. [NPR]
  • Newly unemployed may not see expanded benefits for weeks. [The Hill]
  • During this public health crisis, states must immediately expand Medicaid, if only temporarily. [Families USA]
  • How to protect the 2020 vote from the coronavirus. [Brennan Center for Justice]


David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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