Members of the Oklahoma House and Senate have completed hearings on interim studies for the 2020 legislative session. KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley discuss that and give an update on the revamp of the state's Medicaid delivery system.
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.
Shawn, legislative interim studies have finished in the House and Senate. What have lawmakers done that we should be watching for in the upcoming legislative session?
Shawn Ashley: Well, they talked about a lot of things between the beginning of August and here into late November. There were 72 interim studies requested in the Senate, 33 got hearings, 96 in the House, and some 69 of those had hearings. And really they were all over the place. The Senate Appropriations Committee talked about, for example, facility maintenance, an area where the state has sort of been falling behind, as evidenced by the work currently taking place at the state capitol and in annual requests for more than usually a billion dollars in funding for those efforts. I'm starting to hear in some of the budget request hearings that efforts are underway to change that. So we may see legislation in that area. There were also a number of hearings related to criminal justice reform in terms of sentencing and in terms of bail. And of course, education was another big issue, particularly charter schools, how they're overseen and how they're funded. So all those areas could be places where we've seen new legislation in 2020.
Dick Pryor: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority has approved hiring a consultant to help the state redesign the Medicaid delivery system that's been requested by Governor Kevin Stitt. The board is going to pay the consultant up to one point five million dollars. What will they be doing?
Shawn Ashley: Well, they really don't know exactly yet. You'll recall when we talked to the director of the Health Care Authority, Kevin Corbett, he talked about the various plans to reform Medicaid in Oklahoma that were sort of coming to the table. Governor Kevin Stitt is working on a plan and has indicated he would like to see the system move toward a block grant based system. And that's the first work that the consultant will be doing, working with the governor to help him flesh out his plan, which he plans to announce perhaps as early as sometime in December. Then there's also the health care working group, a legislative working group that that's been looking at ideas for improving the Medicaid system. And of course, there is State Question 802, which will likely be on the ballot sometime in 2020, which would simply expand Medicaid, as Director Corbett pointed out. There is a lot of work to be done to implement any of these plans. And so that will be the second part of what the consultant will be involved in, taking whatever gets put on the table finally to implement it.
Dick Pryor: And there are a lot of other plans because there are at least thirty six plans enacted by states that have already taken the Medicaid expansion dollars.
Shawn Ashley: Yes, the consultant, Health Management Associates, a Michigan based consulting company, has worked on the implementation of some of those plans or in changes to other states Medicaid systems. But there's a bad joke among Medicaid experts. They say when you've seen one Medicaid plan, you've seen one Medicaid plan. Every state is unique in what they do. And we're likely to see three very unique plans regarding Oklahoma's system in the coming months.
Dick Pryor: Will this firm be advising or more implementing?
Shawn Ashley: Well, that's really not clear just yet. Initially, they'll probably be providing the state with some general parameters of what will need to be done when they get the final plan. They will then be working on the more specific aspects of that.
Dick Pryor: House and Senate Republicans, the majorities in both Houses – big majorities - have had their annual fall retreats. What do legislators discuss at these retreats?
Shawn Ashley: Well, it's a variety of things. In the case of Senate Republicans who were meeting this week in Stillwater, we saw that they had several learning sessions. They heard from Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell about tourism in the state of Oklahoma - a love of his and something he's been involved in promoting. They also heard from a Federal Reserve economist about the economy in Oklahoma and which direction it may be heading. And they also heard from some of the individuals appointed to state agency boards and commissions who are working really with state agencies to implement many of the laws passed by the legislature. You'll recall back during the legislative session, five of the largest boards were remade as part of the effort to give the governor appointment authority over those executive directors. So they're sort of seeing how that's working out. The other part of those meetings is also often dedicated to developing the legislative agenda for that particular caucus. And then inevitably, of course, there will be talk about politics and the 2020 election.
Dick Pryor: You think?
Shawn Ashley: I think so.
Dick Pryor: All right, Shawn, thank you. That's Capitol Insider. If you have questions, e-mail us at news@KGOU.org, or contact us on Twitter, @KGOUNews. You can also find us online at KGOU.org and eCapitol.net. Until next time with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.