Weekly Wonk: OK Policy State Budget Summit | Privatizing health care is bad policy, process lacked public input | Working together to move forward

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

OK Policy State Budget Summit: On Jan. 26, OK Policy held its 7th State Budget Summit, which featured speakers and panelists discussing the state’s budget process and an outlook on the year ahead. For those who were unable to attend, videos and materials from the event are available online: 

  • “With Great Challenges Come Great Opportunities,” Paul Shinn, OK Policy Budget and Tax Senior Analyst [Video] [Slides]
  • Panel discussion featuring Sen. Roger Thompson, Sen. Julia Kirt, Rep. Cyndi Munson, and Terra Branson-Thomas, Secretary of the Nation and Commerce, Muscogee (Creek) Nation [Video]
  • “Policy Imperatives for Racial and Economic Justice,” keynote presentation from Valerie Rawlston Wilson, Director of the Economic Policy Institute’s Program on Race, Ethnicity, and the Economy (PREE) [Video]

Statement: OHCA’s approval of privatizing Oklahoma’s health care is bad health care policy and lacks sufficient public comment processes: OK Policy has previously raised concerns about the OHCA’s processes forcing Oklahomans to choose between their health and participating in the public’s business, as well as OHCA’s continued pattern of shutting down public discussion on the issue. OK Policy analysis has shown that managed care is a bad investment for Oklahoma, but could be especially harmful for patients, providers, and Indigenous communities. [OK Policy]

Legislators must work together to move forward (Capitol Update): Those who serve in the legislative branch are the journeymen of democracy. They labor daily in the vineyards, often doing their best work behind closed doors and necessarily sharing credit with others while often defending a compromise they would have preferred not to make. Those who have served seriously at crafting legislation know what it takes to get something done. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

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 2019, the Medicaid program served just under 1 million individuals at some point over the course of the year. As of November 2020, SoonerCare’s total monthly enrollment was 929,017 people. Of these, nearly two-thirds (62 percent) were low-income children under the age of 18.

Oklahoma’s total Medicaid spending was $5.784 billion in FY 2019, with the federal government accounting for $3.274 billion of that amount. The federal matching rate (FMAP) for most expenses was 62.4 percent.

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

Quote of the Week

“Why are you guys moving so fast? We’re in the middle of a pandemic. You have a hospital provider network who is accustomed to fee-for-service, and in the middle of a pandemic, we are rushing to get this done. And it looks very much to this body as if we’re rushing to get it done before we get back into session so we can’t do anything about it.”

-Rep. Marcus McEntire, R-Duncan, questioning Oklahoma Health Care Authority Secretary Kevin Corbett about OHCA’s decision to move forward with a managed care proposal for the state’s health care system [Oklahoma House of Representatives Video / Appropriations and Budget Committee Agency Budget and Performance Review 

Editorial of the Week

Oklahoma Capitol could become superspreader

Some members of Oklahoma’s Legislature are concerned about the Oklahoma state Capitol becoming a superspreader site because there is no mask enforcement for those who enter the building, and we share their concern.

The annual four-month session traditionally draws thousands of Oklahomans each week from across the state.

As the COVID-19 death toll grows, a debate continues in the Statehouse over the efficacy of face coverings and other COVID-19 precautions designed to slow the spread of the deadly virus.

If lawmakers can’t agree to follow basic COVID-19 safety precautions, then the Capitol could cause massive coronavirus outbreaks that quickly spread to all corners of the state…

[Read full Muskogee Phoenix editorial]

Numbers of the Day

  • 55% – Percentage of the 2.85 million voting-eligible Oklahomans who cast a ballot in the 2020 presidential election, far below the national average of 66.4%. [Tulsa World]
  • 96.4 – COVID-19 mortality rate per 100,000 for Oklahoma’s rural residents, compared with 78.8 deaths per 100,000 residents in urban areas and 84.8 per 100,000 residents for the state as a whole. [OSU Center for Health Sciences Project ECHO via Public Radio Tulsa]
  • 929,017 – Number of Oklahomans who use Medicaid to see a doctor and fill a prescription (as of Nov. 2020). [Oklahoma Health Care Authority

What We’re Reading

  • Revitalizing Democracy: The ‘For the People Act’ would strengthen democratic systems and make it easier to vote [Brennan Center]
  • With Medicaid Expansion, More Than “a Bus Pass and a Good Luck” for Formerly Incarcerated People [Commonwealth Fund]
  • A Frayed and Fragmented System of Supports for Low-Income Adults Without Minor Children [CBPP]


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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