Whatzup Politics (1501)
Existing programs jeopardized by attempt to privatize Medicaid
OKLAHOMA CITY – The House Rules Committee today unanimously approved a bill aimed at assuring the future of crucial partnerships between the state and medical programs at Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma.
House Bill 2299 by Rep. Dustin Roberts, R-Durant, resulted from concerns that these partnerships could be eliminated through the efforts to privatize Oklahoma’s Medicaid system. Roberts’ bill passed by a vote of 8-0. It now goes to the full House of Representatives.
“Today’s action by the Rules Committee should be a source of great relief not only to these two vital medical programs, their faculty and students, but also to thousands upon thousands of Medicaid recipients in rural and underserved parts of Oklahoma,” Roberts said. “Those are the people who stand to suffer without this legislation.”
More than one-third of all Oklahoma Medicaid patients are treated by the state’s two medical schools and their physicians. The Enhanced Reimbursement Payment Program allows physicians who provide education to medical students and residents affiliated with these medical schools to bill for treatment of Medicaid patients at a higher rate, since they are in a teaching environment. This program has both full-time university physicians and private affiliated physicians. This is a federal matching program and does not require any funding from the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. The universities provide the matching funds for this program.
“HB 2299 provides protections for our Medicaid patients being treated by healthcare providers across the state,” said Richard W. Schafer, DO, President of the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association who endorses the bill. “Our fear is the managed care insurance companies have no history with our two medical schools and their vital programs, nor a vested interested in the long-term relationships between the teaching hospitals and the state. These partnerships will be an easy target, and without this bill, crucial policy will be set by these insurance companies without regard for the medical students and patients who benefit from these vital programs.”
Under HB 2299, known as the Oklahoma Medical Education Protection Act, the four managed care companies chosen to administer Oklahoma’s Medicaid program must protect the supplemental payment programs at their current level. The bill also prohibits these companies from attempting to divert patients away from the university teaching programs, their affiliated physicians or hospitals. Violations would be cause for terminating the contract.
Dustin Roberts represents District 21 in the Oklahoma House of Representative, which includes part of Bryan County.
OKLAHOMA CITY - State Rep. Andy Fugate, D-Del City, issued the following statement today after House Bill 2173 passed off the House floor.
“The last minute change to substitute completely new language into House Bill 2173 is pure political shenanigans. That’s why I dropped my support for this bill. What was previously a good bill to fix an election day loophole became what everyone despises - a political power grab at the expense of the people.
“Empowering the Oklahoma Governor and Speaker of the House to appoint a replacement for a sitting U.S. senator instead of letting the people decide is a return to the days of the smoke-filled rooms at the Capitol.
“What other choices will this body cancel from the people? Initiative petitions? Or maybe a presidential election? Not only does this bill NOT drain the swamp, it opens the floodgates and lays claim to land.
“If this bill makes it to the Governor, I encourage him to stand by his commitment to the ‘People’s Agenda’ by vetoing this outrageous incumbent selection bill.”
OKLAHOMA CITY – Updates to a bill named after Riley Boatwright, a Lexington Middle School student who died during a football game in September 2019, passed out of the House Common Education Committee today.
House Bill 1775, authored by Rep. Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle, updates requirements for school boards in devising emergency action plans for all athletic events. Last year, Conley was the House author of SB1198, which created the Riley Boatwright Act and established the initial formation of such plans.
“The legislation we passed last year was a request from Riley’s family,” Conley said. “It is something they wished had been in place when their son was playing football, but their hope is that this will save the lives of other young people involved in athletics in their schools.”
HB 1775 renames the Riley Boatwright Act Riley’s Rule. It would require school boards, beginning in the 2021-22 school year, to coordinate with emergency medical providers in their area to create an Emergency Action Plan for all athletic facilities and events, including practices.
Conley said last year’s act required schools to have emergency medical plans for athletic events, but this year’s legislation strengthens language so schools know exactly what must be included in the plans. That was a request of Riley’s parents, Conley said.
An amendment to the bill specifies that schools don’t have to hire someone outside the district to prepare or manage the plan, but they do have to identify the person inside the district that will be responsible for administering the plan.
The amendment also specifies that if schools have a defibrillator everyone should know where it is located. In addition, the amendment removes the requirement that the plan be reviewed during a medical time-out prior to the start of all athletic games, instead allowing plans to be submitted digitally. Conley said she worked with the Cooperative Council for Oklahoma School Administration on the amended language of the bill.
Conley also thanked the Oklahoma Athletic Trainers Association, which proposed the language on the bill and strongly believes this language allows schools to work together with local emergency services to come up with a plan that best meets the needs of each community.
The Action Plan also shall:
- Include maps and directions with appropriate contact information for emergency medical services
- Define responsibilities for both medical and school officials
- Include a list of other medical equipment available
- Be distributed to all school officials involved in athletic activities
- Be rehearsed annually, prior to the start of the season, with school officials and local emergency medical providers
The bill passed the Common Education Committee with a vote of 14-0 and now is eligible to be considered by the entire House.
Sherrie Conley represents District 20 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes parts of Cleveland, Garvin, McClain and Pottawatomie counties.
OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Jason Lowe, D-OKC, released the following statement today after House Bill 1630 passed the House floor Monday with a partisan vote of 78-18. House Bill 1630 modifies the provisions of the Oklahoma Self-Defense Act, streamlining the firearm licensing process.
“As lawmakers, we have a responsibility to enact policy that keeps Oklahoma communities safe,” said State Rep. Jason Lowe, D-OKC. “By removing the ability for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation to examine medical records in the firearm renewal process, we are opening up the door for individuals with a history of mental illness or propensity for violence to carry firearms. I am committed to standing against policies that put Oklahomans' lives at risk and threaten the rights of safe and responsible gun owners. House Bill 1630 does both.”
OKLAHOMA CITY – A state Advisory Council on Traumatic Brain Injury is one step closer to fruition as House Bill 1010 unanimously passed the House Appropriations and Budget committee Thursday with a vote of 32-0.
HB1010, authored by Rep. Trish Ranson, D-Stillwater, creates an Advisory Council on Traumatic Brain Injury to provide guidelines and advice to agencies and other entities. The TBI Advisory Council will work with the Dept of Health in collecting data, identifying needs, clarifying deficiencies in care, researching causes and promoting prevention.
“Today, Oklahoma is behind other states when it comes to addressing Traumatic Brain Injury,” Ranson said. “As science evolves, we need to adapt and institute policies that protect our state’s greatest asset - its people.”
This is the second time HB1010 has been through the House legislative process. It passed the House in 2020 but stalled due to COVID. She is appreciative of the bipartisan support the legislation has received.
“This is a constituent request bill by a TBI survivor/advocate named Alicia Murie,” Ranson said. “Her story and determination are inspiring, and today we took a step in recognizing that determination by unanimously passing this legislation in committee. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure this legislation makes it to the governor’s desk and is signed in law.”
Ranson’s office can be reached at (405)557-7411 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma House of Representatives Utilities Committee Chair Rep. Garry Mize, R-Guthrie, announced Monday his committee intends to hold hearings to examine the storm’s effect on utility bills and identify measures to prevent astronomically high utility bills after future storms.
The hearings are part of multiples steps announced by state leaders to examine the aftermath of last week’s storm.
“Every single county in our state was affected by last week’s winter weather,” Mize said. “Our constituents are worried about the storm’s impact on their utility bills, and as their elected officials, we need to understand how prepared or unprepared Oklahoma was for this storm and what, if any, policy changes should be implemented in preparation for future storms.”
House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, joined Gov. Kevin Stitt and other elected leaders at Monday’s press conference.
“All 101 House members are working to connect our districts with necessary aid in addition to taking calls from constituents who are very concerned about increased utility bills,” McCall said. “In addition to efforts in our districts, we have an obligation to examine the situation at the legislative level, as well. The House will conduct hearings on the matter to ascertain what needs to be done going forward. I appreciate the leadership of Chairman Mize and the Utilities Committee for reviewing this matter for our constituents.”
A recording of the press conference may be viewed here.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma House Democrats today revealed their legislative agenda for the 58th Legislative Session.
The Oklahoma Focused Agenda is a series of policies the caucus has put together after speaking to Oklahomans across the state about the need for policymakers to refocus their efforts on Oklahoma citizens.
“This agenda is a commitment,” said House Minority Leader Emily Virgin, D-Norman. “Across the state, citizens are wondering when their government is going to stop pandering to outside interests, DC talking points, and presidential politics and start advocating for Oklahoma Focused policies.”
The Oklahoma Focused Agenda covers a wide array of topics and is divided into four different subgroups: criminal justice reform, economy, education, and health care. The caucus plans to release social media videos from each group to explain recommended legislation.
“The policies we have put forward are not ideological milestones,” said Caucus Chair Cyndi Munson, D-OKC. “They are tangible ways we can make our state better and increase the quality of life abroad.”
Democrats know that their minority position in the Legislature makes accomplishing some of the policies a longshot.
“I think all of my colleagues, even those on the opposite side of the aisle, came to this job to do some good in the lives of Oklahomans,” said Caucus Vice-Chair Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa. “The problem is that it’s not happening. We see it every year when the budget is being negotiated. Instead of shooting for the stars, we limit the steps we can take and shoot for what will get us out of the building fastest.
“The Oklahoma Focused Agenda is an alternative. We can either continue to reject the needs of our people or we can come together and build Oklahoma Focused solutions.”
To learn more about the Oklahoma Focused Agenda, please visit www.oklahomafocused.com.
By State Rep. Rick West
It was an interesting week at the state Capitol. Snow and ice that covered much of the state shortened our work week and caused us to cancel some of our committees. We met three days, though, getting much work done.
The House Appropriations and Budget Committee passed House Bill 2078, which would revise the school funding formula. The bill’s author said the change would better allow funding to follow student. Right now, schools are allowed to use a three-year high weighted average daily membership count. This would shave off that third year. Right now, the state is paying double or triple for students that move from one school to another. Oklahoma will spend nearly $200 million for 55,000 students that don’t actually exist in the system if the change is not made. The bill does allow schools greater flexibility with their carry forward amounts and sets a larger cap on those in the future.
The A&B Committee also passed House Bill 1091, the Ensuring Access to Medicaid Act. This act sets up some protections for Oklahomans should the state end up going with the managed care system the governor is pushing. The act specifies the timeframe by which claims must be paid to health care providers, the rates the managed care companies can charge and how quickly they must authorize treatment. Right now, Oklahoma has a pretty good system. We want to make sure that continues if we hand off the keys to third-party, for-profit corporations.
House Bill 2030 passed in the Common Education Committee. This bill would require high school students, beginning in the 2022-23 school year, to pass the United State naturalization test in order to graduate. This test asks simple question such as how many stars are on our state flag, what the stripes on the flag stand for, how many branches of government we have and so on. It also will require students be taught the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Federalist Papers and other founding documents of our nation. The bill’s author said teachers may be teaching these as part of state standards right now, but making sure students can answer questions about our nation’s founding and our current system of government will prepare them to be better citizens once they graduate.
House Bill 2074, known as the Open Transfer Act of 2021, also passed in the Common Education Committee. This bill would allow Oklahoma students to transfer to any public school district at any time during the year. The bill won’t allow the student’s current district to deny the transfer, but it does allow the receiving district to deny the transfer if they can show they are at capacity or if the student has discipline or attendance problems.
Now that these bills have passed committee, they will likely come to a vote on the House floor. I’ll be talking to the folks in District 3 to see how they feel about each piece of legislation and to answer any questions I can.
Remember to listen to me on KPRV Radio each Thursday morning during the legislative session. And if I can help you with anything, feel free to call my Capitol office at (405) 557-7413 or email me at email@example.com.
Rick West represents District 3 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, which includes part of LeFlore County.
OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that would expand the definition of incitement to riot and provides protections for motorists fleeing a riot passed the Judiciary-Criminal Committee on Wednesday.
House Bill 2215, authored by Rep. Kevin McDugle, R-Broken Arrow, makes it unlawful and an incitement to riot for a person to obstruct an exit or entrance into a private business or to obstruct any street, road, highway or thoroughfare that is used by the public. Additionally the bill provides that a motor vehicle operator who unintentionally causes injury or death to an individual is not criminally or civilly liable if the injury or death occurred while the motor vehicle operator was fleeing from a riot.
“I believe strongly in the constitutional right to peaceful protest and I support fully those individuals who want to exercise that right,” McDugle said. “However, when a demonstration rises to the level of a riot, inhibiting the movement of the public and putting them in a dangerous situation, we need to have laws in place that hold rioters accountable and protect the rights of our citizens to flee from the danger.”
HB 2215 passed the Judiciary-Criminal Committee by a vote of 6-1 and is now eligible to be considered by the House.
OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma House of Representatives Appropriations & Budget Committee passed legislation by Rep. Lonnie Sims, R-Jenks, to update the statutory income qualifier to claim an additional homestead exemption. The qualifier has not been raised since 1997.
House Bill 1009 increases the statutory income qualifier to claim an additional homestead exemption from $20,000 to $25,000. The additional homestead exemption reduces, by $1,000, the assessed valuation on the homestead of a homeowner whose gross household income is below the income qualifier limit.
Sims explained that current statute outlines that Oklahomans aged 65 and older who previously qualified for the exemption are no longer required to file annually, but many retired Oklahomans still do. This puts local tax assessors in a position of having to take away the exemption when informed that the homeowner’s income has increased above the current qualifier of $20,000.
“Many Oklahomans are losing their homestead exemption because of the cost-of-living adjustments that have affected their Social Security income throughout the past 24 years,” Sims said. “Unfortunately, this has pushed many of their incomes beyond the current qualifier. While this tax savings is not much, it can help an individual who is living month-to-month. It’s time we address this so they can keep this benefit.”
On average, the double homestead exemption results in a savings ranging from $87 to $137 annually.
Sims is developing a floor amendment to the bill with Rep. Meloyde Blancett, D-Tulsa, to restrict any one-time federal disbursements, such as CARES funding, from being included in the income calculation for this exemption.
Blancett told the committee a constituent contacted her to say that with her federal COVID-19 relief funds this year, she did not qualify for the homestead exemption this year.
“Many seniors who rely on their additional homestead exemption status were bumped off of their eligibility by receiving CARES stimulus, and that was not the intent of this assistance,” Blancett said. “I am honored to work with Representative Sims on this important issue to ensure our seniors are not unintentionally harmed.”
HB 1009 is authored in the Senate by Sen. John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton. After passing the House A&B Committee 31-0, the bill is now available to be considered on the House floor.
HB 1009 is modeled after legislation Sims authored in the 57th Legislature, House Bill 3653, which passed the House unanimously in March 2020 but was not heard in the Senate due to the pandemic.