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Capitol Insider: Oklahoma Health Care Authority's New CEO On Medicaid And More

Caroline Halter/KGOU
KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley interviewed Kevin Corbett on Oct 17, 2019.

In this episode of Capitol Insider, KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley interview Kevin Corbett, who recently left the private sector to run a state agency charged with ensuring all Oklahomans have health care. Corbett reflects on his transition and the possibility of Medicaid expansion. 


Dick Pryor: This is Capitol Insider, your weekly look inside Oklahoma politics, policy and government. I'm Dick Pryor with eCapitol News Director Shawn Ashley. Our guest is Kevin Corbett, the new chief executive officer of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which administers Sooner Care and Insure Oklahoma. Thanks for joining us. 

Kevin Corbett: Sure. Glad to be here. 

Shawn Ashley: For those who may not know, briefly tell us what Sooner Care and Insure Oklahoma do.

Corbett: Well, I think the the summary of that is, is that we are the custodians and really the champions of about a million Oklahomans that are members of Medicaid, and Sooner Care and Insure Oklahoma is the safety net for health care insurance for those vulnerable members. 

Ashley: Gov. Stitt appointed you to this position, but before he did, he had asked for an audit of the application and qualification process for Medicaid. How is that audit going and when might we expect results of that? 

Corbett: Yeah. As I understand it, that was a request by the governor of the state auditor and inspector that is just getting underway, and it has to do with the eligibility requirements for a Medicaid membership. In talking to the CMS representatives, our reputation and our performance with them is quite good. The level of exception rate, I'll call it, in terms of things that CMS would have found that we should have identified, is fairly low. 

Pryor: The Health Care Authority's vision is for Oklahomans to be healthy and to have access to quality health care services, regardless of their ability to pay. How do you see the state doing that? 

Corbett: It's a daunting task, if you will. It's something that you constantly have to be struggling and striving for simply because it's the right thing to do. Being focused on outcomes, I think, is the key to the success on this, so healthy standards, healthy outcomes. That's really our focus. 

Ashley: Gov. Stitt, who appointed you, does not support Medicaid expansion and has talked about developing his own plan for Oklahoma. A legislative committee is also looking at that issue. What do you think the governor's plan might ultimately look like? 

Corbett: Good question. I mean, quite frankly, he has had a lot of input, as I understand, from a lot of different folks. But it's his job to make a decision. As I've told our agency and our team here and our champions for our members is that we need to be kind of prepared, if you will, for the opportunity to serve more members, possibly. 

Pryor: Obviously, you implement policy, but in this position you carry some weight. What's your opinion of Medicaid expansion? 

Corbett: Expansion, in the general or broad sense, is...Again, it goes back to our vision, if you will, is as an agency is to be able to have a healthy Oklahoma and provide health care and access to health care regardless of ability to pay. And, to the extent that there are others that could participate in that and we have the ability support that, I'm kind of for it, if you will. Now, I understand Medicaid as a technical legislative matter does have its categories of membership, women and children, and aged, blind and disabled. We have the ability to possibly extend that. Our role would be whatever comes from the decisions that are made to deliver service to that membership in the same way we deliver today. 

Pryor: You are a CPA...

Corbett: I am indeed. 

Pryor: ...who has worked outside of government and outside of the health care field during your career. So as a business person coming into this position, what has been the biggest adjustment that you've had to make? 

Corbett: First off, you're right. I came from the private sector. I spent my entire career in the private sector, and for just a small portion of that career, it was outside the health care industry. And oftentimes when we would get into conversations about change and transformation, we spoke in terms of, "This is a business decision. It's nothing personal." Probably the biggest thing that I've learned coming here, particularly with the agency and what we're allowed to do, is the decisions we make are personal. They're all personal. Yes, there's a business aspect to it, but we think in terms of the impact it has on members, which are people. 

Pryor: Oklahoma Health Care Authority CEO Kevin Corbett, thanks for joining us. 

Corbett: It's been a pleasure. Thank you for having me. 

Pryor: That's Capitol Insider. If you have questions e-mail us at news@kgou.org or contact us on Twitter at @kgounews. You can also find us online at kgou.org and eCapitol.net, on Apple podcasts and Spotify. Until next time, with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor. 


Caroline produced Capitol Insider and did general assignment reporting from 2018 to 2019. She joined KGOU after a stint at Marfa Public Radio, where she covered a wide range of local and regional issues in far west Texas. Previously, she reported on state politics for KTOO Public Media in Alaska and various outlets in Washington State.
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