In The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or RSS. The podcast theme music is by Zébre.
Today you should know that over 69,000 Oklahomans enrolled in private health insurance plans on Healthcare.gov during the open enrollment period. Oklahoma boasted the second-highest rate of Native Americans enrolled on the Affordable Care Act marketplace. In a survey, Oklahoma’s Native Americans ranked health problems as the most significant challenge facing them in mid-life. Enrollment in Oklahoma’s Medicaid program grew almost 5 percent while the health insurance marketplace was open, although officials say it’s too early to attribute the growth to the Affordable Care Act. On the OK Policy Blog, we explain how critics of accepting federal funds to extend coverage to low-income Oklahomans aren’t telling the whole story. Morton Comprehensive Health Services is forming a foundation to provide philanthropic support to assist in treating clients. Morton and other community health centers in Oklahoma have struggled since the state’s uncompensated care fund ran dry.
Governor Mary Fallin has raised over half a million dollars in the first quarter of her reelection campaign. MSNBC examined Gov. Fallin’s track record as governor. Joy Hofmeister, state schools superintendant challenger, has out-fundraised incumbent Janet Barresi by 4-to-1. State education associations have released a report countering Superintendent Barresi’s claim that school district administrative costs are excessive. TW Shannon’s campaign is drawing fire from some Republican groups, who charge that the US Senate candidate is frequently a “no-show” for campaign events at which his staff had confirmed he would appear.
Oklahoma Policy Institute released a statement condemning a deal that state leaders are arranging with oil and gas executives to extend the horizontal drilling tax break to all wells at 2 percent for four years. A new study suggests links a 5.7 magnitude earthquake in Oklahoma with oil and gas wastewater injection, making it the strongest earthquake ever linked to the oil and gas industry. StateImpact Oklahoma shared audio from a recent forum on how climate change is impacting Oklahoma. Oklahoma wheat farmers are bracing for the worst wheat harvests in decades.
A Gallup poll found that 30 percent of Oklahomans would leave the state to reside elsewhere if given the chance, a figure slightly below the national average. The Midwest Economic Survey Index, which covers nine Midwest and Plains states, hit a three-year high in April, suggesting continuing economic growth over the next three to six months. In an editorial, The Oklahoman criticized the state legislature for voting down sensible measures to reduce Oklahoma’s prison population. Oklahoma State University is one of 55 universities nationwide that is under federal investigation for its handling of sexual assault complaints. Vice News was granted an exclusive look at the Satanic monument being built for the Oklahoma statehouse lawn.
Oklahoma has the second-highest health care enrollment of American Indians
Oklahoma has the second highest concentration of American Indians who have selected private health insurance plans through the federally run marketplace since it opened Oct. 1, according to data released Thursday. In Oklahoma, at least 1,638 American Indian or Alaska Native residents selected private insurance plans through the marketplace from October to the end of March, representing 3.1 percent of the total number of Oklahomans who have signed up for coverage whose race or ethnicity was known.
Over 69,000 Oklahomans sign up for Affordable Care Act
A little more than 69,000 Oklahomans signed up for health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act between Oct. 1 and the deadline for enrollment, March 31, according to federal data released Thursday. More than 8 million people enrolled nationally, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. About 28 percent nationwide were young adults from age 18 to 34, a demographic considered crucial to the success of health reform. In Oklahoma, about 29 percent of enrollees were 18 to 34. About 56 percent who signed up are women. U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said in a conference call with reporters Thursday that those who signed up now have peace of mind.
Survey: Oklahoma Native Americans say health problems are their most important challenge
A recent survey completed by AARP and the Oklahoma Area Tribal Epidemiology Center suggests personal health problems are the number one concern of American Indians when asked ‘what is the single most important problem or challenge facing Oklahoma Native Americans in mid-life’. Respondents to the survey stated other challenges faced were: staying healthy, the cost of living, retirement and transportation. Nearly all those surveyed said it is extremely or very important for tribes to maintain current funding levels for health care access, while 87 percent said funding home modifications that allow people to stay in their own homes is extremely or very important
Oklahoma’s Medicaid program has grown almost 5 percent since marketplace opened
Oklahoma’s Medicaid program has grown almost 5 percent since the federal health insurance marketplace opened, according to federal data released Thursday. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that 38,278 Oklahomans enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, from Oct. 1 to March 31. When Oklahoma residents apply for private health insurance at HealthCare.gov, their information is sent to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Oklahoma’s Medicaid agency, if they or their children qualify for SoonerCare, the state’s Medicaid program. Oklahoma’s average Medicaid and CHIP enrollment from July 2013 to September 2013 was 790,051 Oklahomans. By March 2014, that enrollment was up to 828,329.
Critics of Medicaid expansion aren’t telling the whole story
Opponents of accepting federal funds to expand health coverage in Oklahoma have recently been citing a report from the Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA), a think tank based out of Florida. The report claims that states should refuse federal funds to expand coverage to low-income residents because the uninsured rate did not fall after Medicaid expansions in Arizona and Maine during the early 2000s. However, FGA’s analysis leaves out a lot of the story.
Morton Comprehensive Health Services creates foundation to provide philanthropic support
Morton Comprehensive Health Services has created a foundation to provide philanthropic support to the organization. Morton, a federally qualified health center and nonprofit organization, has served the community for more than 90 years. The foundation was formally launched at a luncheon Thursday. Former Tulsa Mayor Susan Savage, who has been acting as a consultant and senior director of philanthropic development for Morton, said the foundation will ensure that the health system has the resources necessary to address the clientele that doctors there see, which includes many uninsured people.
Fallin re-election campaign raises a half-million dollars in first quarter
Gov. Mary Fallin’s re-election campaign took in almost $520,000 during the first three months of 2014 and has almost 20 times more cash on hand than her closest rival has, according to reports filed on Wednesday with the state Ethics Commission. Meanwhile, in what is probably the most competitive race for statewide office, Republican candidate for state superintendent of public instruction Joy Hofmeister reported contributions four times those of GOP incumbent Janet Barresi.
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin boasts far-right record
An execution this week that went terribly wrong has catapulted Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, a Republican, to the national stage. But there’s more to Fallin than her zeal for capital punishment. The first female governor of Oklahoma has also quashed broader criminal justice reform, refused Medicaid expansion that would cover 150,000 Oklahoma residents, signed 10 new restrictions on abortion and contraception, blocked local minimum wage increases, and slashed education funding.
GOP challenger outraises Oklahoma schools superintendent in election donations
A Republican candidate for state schools superintendent outraised the incumbent 4-1 in the first three months of this year, their latest contributions reports show. Challenger Joy Hofmeister raised $127,004 in January through March while state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi raised $31,600. “It sends a strong signal that people are ready for a change,” Hofmeister said Thursday. “Clearly, Oklahomans are tired of the conflict, negativity, mismanagement, over-testing and computer glitches that have shut down the education process and put it into paralysis.” Barresi has been concentrating on work, her campaign manager said.
Education associations counter Janet Barresi’s charge of high administrative costs
Administrative costs in Oklahoma public schools were 3.54 percent of total expenditures in the 2013 fiscal year, leaders of three Oklahoma education associations said Thursday in a written statement. “Despite our challenges, the evidence clearly demonstrates that Oklahoma’s public schools are operated in an efficient manner by locally elected boards, administrators and teachers,” said Shawn Hime, executive director of the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. The OSSBA, along with the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration and the United Suburban Schools Association, gathered and analyzed data available on the Oklahoma Department of Education’s financial transparency website. The statement comes nearly a month after State Superintendent Janet Barresi charged, not for the first time, that school districts’ administrative costs are excessive.
Shannon getting complaints about no-shows at scheduled events
Several Republican, Tea Party, and Patriot organizations in Oklahoma say they’ve had disappointing experiences with one of the candidates for national office. T.W. Shannon has already come under fire for missing hundreds of votes in the State House. Now, KRMG has learned he’s gaining a reputation as a “no-show” for local events around the state, after his campaign staff confirmed he would appear.
STATEMENT: Lawmakers should reject deal to expand industry tax break
Expanding this unnecessary tax break would squander our opportunity to invest in Oklahoma while the energy boom lasts. We are not securing nearly enough revenue for Oklahoma schools, public safety, and other services that are vital to our economy. Drilling is still booming in states without this generous tax break, while we give our prosperity away to out-of-state shareholders and ask Oklahoma taxpayers to make up the loss.
Gallup poll: 30 percent of Oklahomans would like to leave state
Every state has at least some residents who are looking for greener pastures, but nowhere is the desire to move more prevalent than in Illinois and Connecticut. According to the poll, 30 percent of Oklahoma residents “would like to move.” In Illinois and Connecticut, about half of residents say that if given the chance to move to a different state, they would like to do so. Maryland is a close third, at 47%. These findings are from a 50-state Gallup poll, conducted June-December 2013, which includes at least 600 representative interviews with residents aged 18 and older in each state.
A monthly economic index for nine Midwestern and Plains states hit a three-year high in April, suggesting more economic growth over the next three to six months. A report issued Thursday says the overall Mid-America Business Conditions Index rose to 60.4 from 58.2 in March. Looking six months ahead, the business confidence portion of the overall index jumped to 64.2 in April from 59.0 in March.
Oklahoma correctional officers’ concerns are valid, and being dismissed
State Rep. Bobby Cleveland has made corrections a priority during his first term in the Oklahoma House, visiting prisons regularly to talk to officers and inmates alike. His assessment? “We’ve got to start doing things differently than we’re doing.” Cleveland, R-Slaughterville, offered a bill this session that would have done that in one small way. It involved inmates sentenced to crimes that require they serve 85 percent of their time before being considered for parole. Cleveland’s bill, requested by correctional officers, would have allowed these inmates to begin earning good-behavior credits once they enter prison. No inmates would have been released before serving the 85 percent. Instead the change would have allowed inmates to eventually be released a few months earlier than scheduled, which would have freed up beds and saved the system money — roughly $5 million per year.
Oklahoma State University among 55 schools facing US federal sex assault probe
The Education Department on Thursday took the unprecedented step of releasing the names of the 55 colleges and universities currently facing a Title IX investigation over their handling of sexual abuse complaints. The single Oklahoma school that appears on the list is Oklahoma State University. OSU President Burns Hargis received a letter on April 18 from the DOE’s Office for Civil Rights serving notice the OCR was initiating a review of the school’s compliance and to request information necessary for the review.
Oklahoma farmers anticipate this year’s wheat harvest to be one of the poorest in decades after a late freeze in April and ongoing drought conditions in the western part of the state. The Oklahoma Grain and Feed Association projected at its annual meeting Wednesday that Oklahoma’s wheat harvest would be about 66.5 million bushels this year. The estimate is based on reports on crop conditions from farmers around the state. That compares to a yield of 105.4 million bushels in 2013, and a 154.8 million bushels in 2012.
New research suggests that the sharpest earthquake to strike Oklahoma may have been triggered in part by wastewater injection — which if true, would make the 2011 temblor the strongest ever linked to disposal practices within the oil and gas industry. An industry spokesman says a cause-and-effect cannot be proven because work in the oil patch hasn’t changed much in generations. A study of the same quake last year noted that wastewater had been injected into abandoned oil wells nearby for 17 years without incident.
Lesser Prairie Chicken Peep Show: In The Field With Oklahoma’s ‘Threatened’ Bird
Betsy Searight and her husband John drove from all the way from New Jersey for this opportunity: Wake up at 4 a.m., huddle against the cold, and sit silently and motionless for hours hoping to watch a Lesser Prairie Chicken peep show. After a long fight between Oklahoma and the U.S. government, the Lesser Prairie Chicken goes on the federal threatened species list later this month. To find out how the listing will affect Oklahoma and why the bird is worth protecting, we took a trip to the High Plains of northwestern Oklahoma.
Full Audio From our Public Forum on How Climate Change is Affecting Oklahoma
Picasso Cafe in Oklahoma City was packed Wednesday night for StateImpact’s public forum on how to prepare for climate change in Oklahoma. The two panelists — Clay Pope, director of the Oklahoma Association of Conservation Districts, and Dr. David Engle, professor, researcher, and director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Center at Oklahoma State University — answered questions from StateImpact reporters Joe Wertz and Logan Layden and fielded questions from an eager audience. StateImpact partner station KOSU hosted the forum during its monthly “On Tap” event, which was co-hosted by KGOU.
Here’s the first look at the new Satanic monument being built for Oklahoma’s statehouse
In January the Satanic Temple announced plans to erect a monument glorifying the Dark Lord on the front lawn of the Oklahoma Statehouse. An Indiegogo campaign was launched with what seemed like a somewhat lofty goal of $20,000, but by the time donations ended almost $30,000 had been raised. Now an artist trained in classical sculpture is toiling away in New York, crafting a Baphomet figure sitting beneath a pentagram and flanked by two children gazing upward in loyalty. When it is finished, it will be cast in bronze and, the Satanists hope, eventually displayed in Oklahoma.
“There’s a huge gap because basically you’ve got what I would call working poor — they work, and so they don’t qualify for SoonerCare, but if the state of Oklahoma had expanded the Medicaid program, they would have fallen under those guidelines. Until we are able to cover that population, they’re going to continue to end up in the ER where they’re basically ‘treated and streeted,’ and (they’re) not under a chronic care plan, and a lot of these people have chronic conditions, and it’s going to continue to pull our health indicators down in our state.”
-Robyn Sunday-Allen, the CEO of the Oklahoma City Indian Clinic, describing the ‘coverage crater’ for Oklahomans unable to access affordable health insurance while Oklahoma refuses to accept federal funds to expand coverage (source: http://bit.ly/1rL7dz2).
Number of the Day
How many Oklahomans signed up for health insurance on the Affordable Care Act Marketplace in the open enrollment period.
On Wednesday, I wrapped up the class I’ve been teaching all semester: “The Great Recession: Causes and Consequences.” (Slides for the lectures are available via my blog.) And while teaching the course was fun, I found myself turning at the end to an agonizing question: Why, at the moment it was most needed and could have done the most good, did economics fail? I don’t mean that economics was useless to policy makers. On the contrary, the discipline has had a lot to offer. While it’s true that few economists saw the crisis coming — mainly, I’d argue, because few realized how fragile our deregulated financial system had become, and how vulnerable debt-burdened families were to a plunge in housing prices — the clean little secret of recent years is that, since the fall of Lehman Brothers, basic textbook macroeconomics has performed very well. But policy makers and politicians have ignored both the textbooks and the lessons of history.