The Weekly Wonk: A plan to expand health coverage; the state of the Rainy Day Fund; & more…

the_weekly_wonk_logoWhat’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

On Friday, we issued this statement responding to news that the Oklahoma Health Care Authority has developed plans to accept federal funds for expanding health coverage. A guest post from Camille Landry in our Neglected Oklahoma series described some of the parents who could have lost health coverage had HB 2665 passed (the bill died in committee). Policy Analyst Ryan Gentzler described how the legislature is sending mixed signals on mental health and incarceration.

In his Journal Record column, Executive Director David Blatt asked what it will take for the legislature to address the budget crisis. On the OK Policy Blog, Blatt summarized the state of the Rainy Day Fund following an agreement to tap it to help fund education and corrections. Steve Lewis’s Capitol Update argued that efficiency isn’t the most important model in judging government. An upcoming Practice & Policy lecture will explore the results of the Oklahoma Housing Needs Assessment. 

OK Policy in the News

An op-ed by Gentzler in the Tulsa World made the case for doing what works on criminal justice reform. Policy Director Gene Perry was quoted by the Tulsa World discussing the Health Care Authority’s plans to expand health coverage, and KGOU ran our statement on the topic. Blatt spoke to the Tulsa World following the defeat of a bill that would have yanked health coverage from thousands of low-income parents. Perry talked about the gas tax to FOX25. His blog post about the gas tax fix that could fix the state’s revenue rollercoaster is here


“I have a daughter who was born with Prader-Willi Syndrome, a genetic defect that causes her to have insatiable hunger. She is living in a group home that will keep her safe with all food locked up. However, the agency that is responsible for her care cannot hire good staff at minimum wage. Staff numbers have also been reduced and salaries cut by 6% and staff health insurance deductions doubled. Who can work and support a family in a situation like that? They could do better at McDonald’s. We have experienced bad situations because the agency cannot pay enough to hire stable people to care for our children with developmental disabilities – one of society’s most vulnerable groups.” – Gretchen Hannefield, Tulsa

These testimonials, and the multitude of others like them, show what’s at risk if the budget crisis isn’t fixed. Join Together Oklahoma’s campaign to tell lawmakers that we can’t cut our way to prosperity, and need to protect core services and raise revenues. Join #DoSomethingOK here.

Calling all college students: Apply for the 2016 Summer Policy Institute

We are now accepting applications from undergrad and graduate students for our fourth Summer Policy Institute (SPI)! SPI brings together highly-qualified college students from across the state from July 31 to August 3 for a unique opportunity to become better informed about vital Oklahoma policy issues, network with fellow students and leaders in the policy process, and prepare for their future studies and work in public policy-related fields. Learn more and apply here

Weekly What’s That

Oklahoma’s Promise (OHLAP)

The Oklahoma Higher Learning Access Program (OHLAP), also known as Oklahoma’s Promise, is an early commitment financial aid program that covers tuition and other college costs for certain Oklahoma students. Oklahoma’s Promise is open to students attending public or private high schools or being homeschooled, with family income not to exceed $50,000 at the time of enrollment. Read more.

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

Quote of the Week

“There is a better solution available, if Oklahoma would only look to the east. Arkansas has proven that states can accept available enhanced federal Medicaid reimbursement funding and use it to underwrite private health insurance for its poorest citizens. The infusion of federal money has spurred the Arkansas economy, cut state costs, increased state tax revenues and produced a more robust insurance market.”

– The Tulsa World’s Editorial Board, urging state leadership to accept an infusion of federal dollars to expand health coverage for low-income Oklahomans (Source). 

Editorial of the Week

Arnold Hamilton, The Journal Record

Here’s an idea: Be bold. Set aside concerns about political advantage or power. Do what’s right for Oklahoma. For the least among us. For our school kids and teachers. Build whatever coalitions are necessary to raise the income tax – the fairest tax of all, since it is based on ability to pay – and eliminate corporate welfare. Those willing to make the tough public policy choices – the ones that put Oklahoma’s future on solid footing – will be real heroes.

Numbers of the Day

  • 43% – Percentage of Oklahomans who say they attend religious services at least weekly
  • 34% – Percent of potential marketplace population in Oklahoma who have selected a marketplace insurance plan, the 9th lowest in the US
  • 9,200 – Years of potential life lost before age 75 per 100,000 of the population in Oklahoma. The US median is 7,700
  • 240,229 – Estimated number of occupied housing units in Oklahoma with lead-based paint hazards
  • 1,560:1 – Ratio of Oklahoma’s population to primary care physicians in 2013. The US median is 1,990:1

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading


Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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