[Weekly Wonk] Medicaid expansion’s impact on Oklahoma | Tribal-state coordination for child well-being | 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 in Oklahoma: Year One: In conjunction with the first anniversary of Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma, OK Policy has published a new report that looks at how Medicaid expansion has increased health care access, improved health outcomes, and strengthened our economy. Since going into effect on July 1, 2021, Medicaid expansion has brought comprehensive and affordable health insurance to more than 280,000 Oklahomans, decreased Oklahoma’s uninsured rate, and helped keep the lights on for hospitals statewide. Expansion has benefited Oklahomans of every race, gender, and age in every county in the state. [Full report and additional resources]
  • Analysis: Medicaid expansion’s rippling impact on Oklahoma:  Since implementation on July 1, 2021, Medicaid expansion has decreased Oklahoma’s uninsured rate from 14.4 percent to below 10 percent, and Oklahomans of all races, genders, ages, and in all counties have benefitted. Expansion has strengthened our hospitals and will continue to fortify our communities as more Oklahomans are able to access basic needs like seeing their doctor and filling a prescription. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]
  • Tribal-state coordination to prioritize Oklahoma Indian Child Welfare is one way to improve child well-being: As a state with a high population of American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children and overall low ranking in general child well-being, it is crucial that Oklahomans understand what the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) means for child well-being in the state. ICWA is a federal law that passed in 1978 as a response to the high number of AI/AN children being removed from their homes by both private and public agencies and placed in non-AI/AN homes, institutions, and adoptive homes. [Vivian Morris / OK Policy
  • Time will tell about effectiveness of Oklahoma’s move towards more top-down governance model (Capitol Update): We’ve had a few years now with the new “the buck stops here” form of state government where the governor directly controls some state agencies. The premise is that when one person, the governor, is clearly in charge, the enhanced accountability will make agencies more efficient because when things go wrong the public knows whom to blame. The theory is dubious because the only way to really hold a governor accountable (short of proving criminal activity) is at the ballot box. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]
  • Policy Matters: Celebrating expanded health care options: Health care is vital to ensure we – along with our friends and neighbors – can live healthy lives and contribute to our communities. Friday marks the one-year anniversary of Medicaid expansion taking effect in Oklahoma, so I think it’s a good time to reflect on the positive changes this has brought to our communities. [Shiloh Kantz / Journal Record

We’re Hiring!

Join the team: OK Policy is currently hiring for three positions: Youth Justice Policy Analyst and Regional Organizer for Together Oklahoma (two positions, one each for Central Region and Northeast Region).  The application deadline for these positions in July 7, 2022 at 5 p.m. Visit OKPolicy.org/jobs for the full job description and compensation. 

Weekly What’s That


Medicaid is a public insurance program that provides health coverage to low-income families and individuals, including children, parents, pregnant women, seniors, and people with disabilities. The program, which was created by Congress in 1965 as Title XIX of the Social Security Act, is operated by the states and funded jointly by the federal government and the states.

In Oklahoma, the Medicaid program is known as SoonerCare and is operated primarily by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. In FY 2020 (prior to Medicaid expansion), the Medicaid program served just over 1 million individuals at some point over the course of the year, a figure that had remained largely unchanged since FY 2012. As of November 2021, SoonerCare’s total monthly enrollment was 1,135,844 people. Of these, well over half (58 percent) were low-income children 18 years and under.

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

Quote of the Week

“Medicaid expansion did exactly what voters knew it would when they passed the ballot initiative. We’ve seen immense coverage gains across the state, and then subsequent economic benefits throughout our local communities.”

-Emma Morris, Health Care and Revenue Policy Analyst, OK Policy [KTUL]

Editorial of the Week

Editorial: OJA’s Next Generation Campus gives kids hope in a new-concept facility

Oklahoma’s adjudicated youths needing specialized treatment can live in a more inspired residential facility while working to turn around their lives.

The Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs opened the Central Oklahoma Juvenile Center Next Generation Campus in Tecumseh last week. The property has been used in many ways since 1907 to help children and youths.

That includes programs for orphans, children requiring brain health services and youths who have gone through juvenile court. At one time, it was known as the Oklahoma State Industrial School for Incorrigible Girls.

Now it will house youths who have been adjudicated as youthful offenders or delinquents and placed in OJA custody from all over the state, according to a story from reporter Kelsy Schlotthauer.

Sometimes it is hard for the public to show compassion for some of these kids. They have committed crimes, consistently make poor decisions and cut up in school. These are rough, challenging youth.

Also, most were abused or neglected as children. Often, they are among the youths with the highest adverse childhood experiences. They have little to no support system.

Adolescent minds already struggle with mood swings, rash behavior and consequences. That is made more difficult with the issues facing these youths.

We cannot forget that they are kids and deserve another chance. They are legally allowed that opportunity, and resources should be made available to help them.

OJA and the state are living up to the responsibility.

[Read the full editorial at the Tulsa World]

FROM THE OK POLICY ARCHIVE: Better Tomorrows: A Landscape Analysis of Oklahoma’s Youth Justice System and Suggested Reforms 

Numbers of the Day

  • 57% – Percentage of Americans who say voting is “a fundamental right for every adult U.S. citizen and should not be restricted in any way.” Fewer (42%) express the view that “voting is a privilege that comes with responsibilities and can be limited if adult U.S. citizens don’t meet some requirements.” The survey shows a wide partisan divide on whether voting is a fundamental right or a privilege with responsibilities. [Pew Research Center]
  • 54.99% – Oklahoma’s voter turnout rates in 2020 as measured by total ballots cast expressed as a percentage of eligible voters. This was the nation’s lowest voter rate in 2020. [Ballotpedia]
  • 4x – American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) children are four times more likely to be placed in foster care than white children [Casey-CSSP Alliance for Racial Equity in Child Welfare]
  • 9.6% – Oklahoma’s estimated health care uninsured rate in April 2022 following the July 1, 2021, implementation of Medicaid expansion in the state. This represented about a five-point improvement in health care coverage rates during the first year of Medicaid expansion in Oklahoma [OK Policy
  • 301,034 – Number of Oklahomans who have been approved for health care benefits via Medicaid expansion since June 1, 2021 [Oklahoma Health Care Authority]

What We’re Reading


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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