Weekly Wonk: Medicaid expansion and the justice-involved | Celebrating working Oklahomans | 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

Medicaid expansion will facilitate easier access to care for justice-involved Oklahomans: The passage and implementation of Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma provides a unique opportunity to further address the state’s crisis of incarceration, as some 200,000 more Oklahomans are now eligible for comprehensive mental and physical health care through Medicaid. Our state, county governments, and community-based organizations can leverage this new coverage option to divert more individuals from the justice system and streamline access to health care as people return to their communities. These efforts will likely generate cost savings, reduce recidivism, and increase quality of life for impacted Oklahomans. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

(Capitol Update) LOFT releases Early Childhood Education report: The Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) was created by the legislature in 2019 for the purpose of assisting the legislature “in performing its constitutional and statutory function of ensuring that government funds are expended in a fiscally responsible manner.” [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Policy Matters: Celebrating labor this weekend and beyond: Our state motto (“Labor omnia vincit”) celebrates work, but too many state policies affecting working Oklahomans are misaligned with those values. Our state asks working folks to pay an outsized share of taxes, forces them to make unconscionable decisions when they need to care for themselves or their families, and sets the minimum wage too low for anyone to support a family. We can – and should – do better by working Oklahomans. [Ahniwake Rose / OK Policy]

Quote of the Week

“The science is still true, whether you believe in it or not. I just have to ask everybody a question in the room and everybody who’s watching. How much longer are we going to allow our children to be collateral damage to the actions and inactions of adults?”

-Deer Creek School Board Member Danny Barnes, who is a doctor, speaking before the board unanimously approved a resolution urging Gov. Stitt and the state legislature to amend a law that bans districts from requiring masks [Fox 25]

Editorial of the Week

Expanded Medicaid benefits state

Oklahomans learned this week that expanding Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act was not the budget-busting exercise its critics made it out to be.

Kevin Corbett, chief executive officer at Oklahoma Health Care Authority, told lawmakers on Monday the $164 million they appropriated for the program remains untouched in a state agency savings account. The agency has paid for Medicaid expansion up to this point with savings realized by implementing the program. 

Corbett said most of those savings were generated by shifting about 65,000 Oklahomans whose health care coverage was provided by Insure Oklahoma to the state’s expanded Medicaid program. The federal government picks up 90% of the costs of Medicaid coverage — money returned to Oklahoma taxpayers.

About 170,000 low-income Oklahomans have qualified for Medicaid since eligibility was expanded through the initiative petition process — the Health Care Authority projects total enrollment of about 215,000. Voters grew weary of scare tactics used by those who put their political agendas above the public interests, and their demands appear to be paying off. 

State Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City, said the new program has been implemented without having to add any new employees to the state’s payroll. He also wondered why Gov. Kevin Stitt thought it would be a good idea to pay a third-party manager $150 million to implement the program.

We are wondering the same thing, but we’re satisfied with the success we’ve seen to date. Our hope is that lawmakers will find a way to carry over from this year unused appropriated funds into the next fiscal year. 

Expanded Medicaid appears to benefit not only those who now have access to health care, but all Oklahoma taxpayers.

[Muskogee Phoenix]

Numbers of the Day

  • 148 – Number of Oklahomans who died while incarcerated in Oklahoma’s 11 largest jails, between 2009-2019. The jails combined had an average annual mortality rate of 2.16 deaths per 1,000 inmates, the second highest in the nation behind West Virginia. [Oklahoma Watch]
  • 2.16 – Average death rate in Oklahoma jails, per 1,000 incarcerated individuals, between 2009 and 2019. The national average is 1.46. [Reuters]
  • $85.7 million – Amount the Oklahoma Department of Corrections spent on health services in FY 2021 [Oklahoma Executive Budget]
  • 12.7x – During the first two weeks after release, the risk of death among former inmates was 12.7 times that among other state residents, with a markedly elevated relative risk of death from drug overdose. The leading causes of death among former inmates were drug overdose, cardiovascular disease, homicide, and suicide. [New England Journal of Medicine]
  • 82% – Percentage of  Oklahomans who enter prison with non-violent offenses and have mental health or substance abuse needs. [Healthy Minds Oklahoma]

What We’re Reading

  • Jail deaths in America: data and key findings of Dying Inside [Reuters & Oklahoma Watch]
  • Medicaid’s Evolving Role in Advancing the Health of People Involved in the Justice System  [The Commonwealth Fund]
  • Medicaid Enrollment Programs Offer Hope To Formerly Incarcerated Individuals And Savings For States [Health Affairs]
  • An Equitable Recovery Needs Investments in Connecting People Leaving Jail or Prison to Health Care [CBPP]
  • Juvenile Justice Laws Provide Model for Improving Health Care Access for Individuals Leaving Incarceration [National Health Law Program]


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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