Weekly Wonk: The need to revisit SQ 640 | Foot dragging over Medicaid expansion | A SoonerCare success story | 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’s edition of The Weekly Wonk was published with contributions from Communications Intern Lilly Strom. 

This Week from OK Policy

(Capitol Update) SQ 640 continues limiting lawmakers, needs to be revisited: House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, has introduced a plan to lower and eventually eliminate the state corporate income tax and to lower the state personal income tax rate. Acknowledging the difficulty of raising taxes in the future because of State Question 640, Speaker McCall has written the proposal using tax credits to produce the same effect as a tax cut. SQ 640 was passed on March 10, 1992, and placed in the Oklahoma Constitution the requirement of a vote of the people or a 75 percent majority of the legislature to pass a tax increase. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Happy Birthday ACA! And what federal COVID relief means for your health care: The Affordable Care Act (ACA), signed into law on March 23, 2010, has significantly increased the number of people who have health insurance, expanded access to care, and led to greater financial stability among low-income individuals. It has also cost less money than was originally estimated. Through the introduction of Medicaid expansion and the federal Marketplace, the ACA was a good first step in making it easier to access affordable health care. The recently passed American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) builds on the success of the ACA and further strengthens the health care safety net. The ARPA will provide many Oklahomans with a new or significantly less expensive pathway to affordable health care by providing additional health-related funding to states and more direct assistance to Oklahomans. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

A SoonerCare success story: As the nation’s largest health care program and an important driver of improved health outcomes, Medicaid is always an important governmental investment. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the state and the nation, hurting the economy and increasing racial and economic disparities, Medicaid is more important now than ever in providing critical coverage to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to see a doctor or fill a prescription. As Oklahoma moves to implement Medicaid expansion in July 2021, some 200,000 newly eligible Oklahomans will gain access to affordable health care, and the state will see significant economic returns. Medicaid provides a pathway to coverage for nearly one in four Oklahomans, and the state and federal governments must protect this access to care. [Emma Morris / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Foot dragging over Medicaid expansion: Want to know how a friend or loved one can apply for health care coverage when Oklahoma’s Medicaid expansion takes effect this summer? You are not alone. And the Oklahoma Health Care Authority – the folks who hold the keys to the application process – aren’t saying. For Capitol watchers, this is just more of the same as OHCA, Gov. Stitt and other state officials have been seeking to limit enrollments in this vital program. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Weekly What’s That

Medicaid expansion

One of the primary provisions of the Affordable Care Act gives states the options to expand their Medicaid eligibility to include individuals below 138 percent of the federal poverty level ($17,609 per year for one person or $36,233 for a family of four in 2020). The costs of expansion were paid for in full by the federal government through 2016, before dropping down (and freezing at) 90 percent in 2020, well above the typical federal match rate.

Until 2020, Oklahoma’s Governor and Legislature opted not to expand Medicaid, a decision that left billions in federal funding on the table, and more than 100,000 Oklahomans in a ‘coverage crater’ (too low-income to qualify for subsidies on the health insurance marketplace, too wealthy or not a member of a population group that is eligible to qualify for traditional Medicaid). In June 2020, Oklahoma voters narrowly approved an initiative petition, State Question 802, that will expand Medicaid no later than July 1, 2021.

As of November 2020, 39 states, including Washington D.C., have expanded Medicaid.

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

Quote of the Week

“If we’re trying to attract new business, how well we invest in public education will be a deciding factor.”

– Alicia Priest, Oklahoma Education Association President, speaking about potential cuts to education funding that might stem from revenue reductions in HB 2041 and HB 2083. She noted that the National Education Association currently puts Oklahoma schools 49th nationally in per pupil spending. [The Frontier]

Editorial of the Week

Editorial: SB 639 and HB 2504 aren’t just bad bills. They’re bad faith.

Can you take the state of Oklahoma at its word?

Two issues currently pending before the Oklahoma Legislature — one in higher education, the other in health — test nothing less than the willingness of our state leaders to honor the state’s implied promises.

In both cases, the Legislature is considering rewriting the tacit assumptions of longstanding arrangements so completely that their very meaning will be changed. The state will be essentially reneging on its promises.

Senate Bill 639 would require students in the Oklahoma’s Promise scholarship program to repay their scholarships if they don’t graduate with a bachelor’s degree within six years.

House Bill 2504 would give the governor’s appointee a veto over future executive directors of the Tulsa and Oklahoma County health departments.

On a surface level, either idea might seem modest, but that isn’t the case. Both would undo assumptions relied on by huge groups of people…

[Read full Tulsa World editorial]

Numbers of the Day

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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