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’s edition of The Weekly Wonk was published with contributions from Communications Intern Lilly Strom.
This Week from OK Policy
- Public being denied opportunity for input about significant change to Oklahoma health care policy: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority is shutting out Oklahomans from voicing concerns about a major change for health care for most SoonerCare members. On Nov. 12, the OHCA Medical Advisory Committee voted to condemn the agency’s efforts to transition the state’s Medicaid program to managed care, although the topic was not on the meeting agenda. The motion was raised after the agency prevented an Oklahoma Policy Institute staff member from speaking on the topic. [OK Policy]
- Healthcare coalition releases statement in response to Oklahoma Health Care Authority RFP: In response to the OHCA’s recent proposal to transition to a managed care model the CoverOK coalition released the following statement: “We hope the Oklahoma Health Care Authority’s approach to managed care does not endanger access to care for Oklahomans who need it most. If other states are any example, hasty approaches to managed care are harmful for patients and providers.” [Read full statement at CoverOK.org] Note: OK Policy and Together Oklahoma are organizers of the CoverOK coalition.
- Oklahoma’s fines and fees system worsening the economic crisis for families and courts: Reforming our state’s fines and fees system has been a long-time need for Oklahoma families, and previous reform attempts have fallen short. The current pandemic has only made things worse, and lawmakers must work hard to find solutions in the coming legislative session. [Ashley Harvey / OK Policy]
- State leaders can do more to reduce Oklahoma’s racial disparities in childhood poverty: Childhood poverty is associated with negative outcomes in health, education and financial stability, and these effects may continue through adulthood. Therefore, implementing policies and expanding programs to reduce childhood poverty is vital to improving the lives of Oklahoma’s youth and strengthening our state’s future. [Rebecca Fine & Josie Phillips / OK25 by 25 Early Childhood Coalition Bulletin, Potts Family Foundation]
- Managed care will have a disproportionate impact on Indigenous communities: Gov. Stitt and the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) are taking risks that could compromise the benefits of Medicaid expansion by changing the entire Medicaid administrative structure in just one year. Managed care has historically failed in Oklahoma, and if it fails again, it will hurt patients, providers, and taxpayers. This negative impact will likely be even worse for Oklahoma’s Indigenous communities, who make up roughly 10 percent of both the current and expansion SoonerCare population, according to an analysis from the health care advocacy group Families USA. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]
- Juvenile justice is an investment to help youth (Capitol Update): Office of Juvenile Affairs (OJA) Executive Director Rachel Holt announced the hiring of Bryan Heil as superintendent of the agency’s new “Next Generation Campus.” The secure care (residential) treatment facility for youth who have committed a criminal offense is to be a co-educational, state-of-the-art physical facility. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]
- Policy Matters: When ‘pretty please’ isn’t enough: Throughout this pandemic, Gov. Kevin Stitt has heralded the message that our strong sense of personal responsibility would keep the virus at bay because Oklahomans know wearing masks is the right thing to do. The recent spike in virus cases – with a seven-day average of more than 2,600 new cases daily – tells us a far different story. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]
Weekly What’s That
A special session, also known as an extraordinary session, may be called to address issues that are unresolved during regular legislative sessions, which can run only from the first Monday in February through the last Friday in May of the year. When the Governor calls a special session, it is restricted only to those matters the governor specifies in calling the special session; however, the Governor may amend the call during special session. The Legislature can also call itself into special session by gaining the signatures of two-thirds of the members of both chambers. The Legislature may not prevent the calling of a special session by the governor.
There is no constitutional limit on the length of special sessions. However, a special session called during one Legislature cannot extend past the swearing in of the next Legislature. Regular and special sessions can run concurrently.
Quote of the Week
“With Thanksgiving and upcoming holidays, Oklahomans must understand the COVID-19 situation statewide. Serious messaging and action are needed from state leadership; recommending Oklahomans wear masks in public settings communicates the current risk level and actions all Oklahomans need to take.”
– White House Coronavirus Task Force Report, Nov. 15
Editorial of the Week
Gov. Stitt, Oklahoma needs a mask mandate now. The state’s health and economic future are at risk.
We were unimpressed with Gov. Kevin Stitt’s COVID-19 executive orders earlier this week.
They are the latest examples of his failure to do necessary things to protect the people of Oklahoma during a deadly pandemic.
Starting Thursday, Stitt ordered bars to close at 11 p.m.; restaurants must do the same except for delivery and drive-through. He ordered tables in bars and restaurants to be at least 6 feet apart.
Stitt also ordered state employees to wear masks when working and in state buildings. State legislative leaders followed Stitt’s order with an announcement that the same rules would be in effect for lawmakers in the Capitol.
And that’s it.
Those are half-steps at best, some of which were already largely in place in our experience.
We’d say the governor’s orders were good so far as they went, but that thought is superseded by this one: They don’t go far enough. Not even close.
Oklahoma needs a mask mandate…
Numbers of the Day
- 9.4% – Percentage of Oklahomans who identify as American Indian and Alaska Native, which is the state’s third largest racial population after whites (74%) and Latinx (11.1%).
- 19.2% – Percentage of American Indian households in Oklahoma with incomes below the federal poverty threshold.
- 5.5 – The shortened life expectancy, in years, for American Indians and Alaska Natives when compared with all racial populations (73.0 years to 78.5 years, respectively).
- 12.9% – Percentage of Oklahoma jobs generated by American Indian-owned businesses in Oklahoma.
- $0.60 – Native American women, on average, are paid approximately $0.60 for every dollar earned by White, non-Hispanic men. This gap in pay typically amounts to a loss of $2,055 every month or $24,656 every year, and adds up to $986,240 over a 40-year career.
What We’re Reading
- Sequoyah, the U.S. state that almost existed [National Geographic]
- Native Americans feel devastated by the virus yet overlooked in the data [New York Times]
- COVID-19 data on Native Americans is ‘a national disgrace.’ This scientist is fighting to be counted [Science]
- New project aims to increase COVID-19 testing for Native Americans [Spokane Public Radio]
- COVID-19 incidence more than triple among Native Americans, new CDC report says [CNN]
Note: November is Native American Heritage Month. During this week, we will be sharing information that recognizes the history, cultures, and contributions of American Indian and Alaska Native people in the state and across the country, as well as the issues they face.