The Weekly Wonk: Policy analysis related to COVID-19 outbreak; Gov.’s health care plan revealed; 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

As our nation confronts the COVID-19 pandemic, OK Policy will be analyzing state and federal policies that impact our state and its residents during this national health emergency. These posts reflect the most current information available at publication, and we will update or publish follow-ups as new information emerges. OK Policy’s pieces on these issues are being collected at

OK Policy in the News

Executive Director Ahniwake Rose and Policy Director Carly Putnam were quoted in a Politico piece about Oklahoma’s fight over Medicaid expansion. Putnam also was quoted in news stories from Oklahoma Watch, Public Radio Tulsa, and national online publication Inside Health Policy about Gov. Stitt’s proposed health care alternative, which was released to the public this week. The Oklahoman and Tulsa World included comments from Rose critical of the state moving forward with public hearings about the Governor’s health care proposal during a national health emergency. A Tahlequah Daily Press column noted Together Oklahoma’s efforts to prompt Gov. Stitt to set an election date for SQ 802, which includes full Medicaid expansion. 

Upcoming Opportunities

Join the OK Policy team as a paid intern this summer! OK Policy is now accepting applications for paid, part-time or full-time internships in our Tulsa office during the summer 2020 semester. If you’re looking to be part of a team that’s fighting to make Oklahoma better for all Oklahomans, this might be the place for you. The deadline to apply is 5:00 p.m., Sunday, April 19.

Storybanker and Administrative Assistant application deadline extended until March 30: Due to current events related to the coronavirus pandemic, OK Policy has extended the deadline for its employment search for its Storybanker and Administrative Assistant positions until March 30 at 5:00 p.m. Learn more and apply

Weekly What’s That

Section 1115

Section 1115 Medicaid waivers, or 1115 waivers, are waivers from federal Medicaid law intended to give states an avenue to test new approaches in Medicaid that differ from what is required by federal statute. 

Section 1115 of the Social Security Act gives the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services authority to approve experimental, pilot, or demonstration projects that test and evaluate state-specific policy changes in Medicaid and CHIP programs to improve care, increase efficiency, and reduce costs without increasing federal Medicaid expenditures.

Oklahoma’s SoonerCare Choice and Insure Oklahoma programs operates under an 1115 demonstration waiver that was first granted in the 1990s and has been amended and renewed several times. As of January 2020, Oklahoma has a pending 1115 waiver application to impose a work reporting requirement on Medicaid members. [Full description]

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

Quote of the Week

“Saying we’ll cut off (Medicaid) coverage if people don’t pay a symbolic premium when all of the bars are closing and all the restaurants are eliminating their wait staff right now, is just incredibly tone deaf.”

-Carly Putnam, Policy Director and Health Care Analyst for OK Policy, discussing the release of Gov. Stitt’s health care proposal during a national health emergency [Oklahoma Watch]

Editorial of the Week

Tulsa World editorial: An unprecedented challenge is forcing previously unimaginable choices

Closing the schools interrupts children’s educations, displaces some children from their most reliable source of food and security and raises child care issues for parents throughout the city. Closing restaurants puts thousands of people out of work and puts the future of a lot of small businesses in doubt.

And there will be other unanticipated implications for the moves. Those will play out before our eyes, and addressing them will require more creative, brave leadership, but right now lessening the disease’s impact is the higher social priority.

[Tulsa World Editorial]

Numbers of the Day

  • 2 in 3 – The number of workers in low-wage jobs (bottom 10 percent of earners) without access to paid sick leave. Even fewer workers (17 percent) have access to paid family and medical leave.
  • 14% – Share of Oklahoma residents who are uninsured, the 2nd highest uninsured rate in the nation.
  • 10 – The recommended threshold for gatherings, according to new White House guidelines intended to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 transmission
  • 7,769 – The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. as of 5 p.m., Wednesday, March 18. 
  • 12% – The percentage of people in our nation’s prisons who are 55 or older, which is the most at-risk population for COVID-19. The aging population in state prisons has surpassed the number of young adults between the age 18 and 24.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Avoiding Coronavirus may be a luxury some workers can’t afford [New York Times]
  • Coronavirus may disproportionately hurt the poor—and that’s bad for everyone [Time]
  • Work requirements are catastrophic in a pandemic [Washington Post]
  • For urban poor, the coronavirus complicates existing health risks [New York Times]
  • A coronavirus outbreak in jails or prisons could turn into a nightmare [Vox]


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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