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Capitol Insider: Medicaid Expansion Proves Popular

Oklahoma Capitol
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A year ago, Oklahoma voters approved expansion of Medicaid to provide greater access. Now, the process has begun. KGOU's Dick Pryor and eCapitol's Shawn Ashley discuss how the expanded program is being received and other recent developments from the state Capitol.


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, voters approved Medicaid expansion a year ago and those who qualify are now eligible for benefits. What do the numbers tell us?

Shawn Ashley: Well, nearly 125,000 Oklahomans have qualified for benefits under the expanded Medicaid plan. And that's just in the first month. The Oklahoma Health Care Authority projects that up to 200,000 Oklahomans would be eligible under the higher income guidelines. Now, the legislature based its funding for the program on that 200,000 number. The first year's state funding will come from federal funds the state has received and then the state will begin a year from now, increasing state funding to the program through a fee assessed on hospitals. That fee will increase over time to account for both possible increases in the program's participation and cost increases and, of course, an eventual decline in federal funding.

Dick Pryor: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority has canceled the contracts it had with four private companies that would have run Oklahoma's Medicaid system under Governor Kevin Stitt's managed care plan. But the Oklahoma Supreme Court shot that planned down. Is the idea of privately managed care dead?

Shawn Ashley: Maybe, maybe not. Now, the court said the Health Care Authority did not have legislative authorization to implement the private managed care program that they were working on. And really, there seems to be no bipartisan support to implement a plan like that or to authorize that plan. But Governor Kevin Stitt, on the other hand, seems committed to the idea of private managed care and a system for the state Medicaid program. I suspect this will be an issue we'll see discussed in the 2022 legislative session.

Dick Pryor: The Senate Appropriations Committee met on Tuesday. What did you learn from that meeting?

Shawn Ashley: The meeting focused on the closure of the William S. Key Correctional Center in Fort Supply. The Department of Corrections announced in mid-June that the facility would be closing at the end of the year. Now you ask what we learned. Well, first, the facility needs tens of millions of dollars of repairs and renovations, at least 35-million- dollars’ worth. Secondly, there's bed space available for those inmates at other facilities so they could be moved out from there and those repairs would not be necessary, making the closure possible. And finally, Secretary of Public Safety Tricia Everest and Department of Corrections Director Scott Crow acknowledged that the Department of Corrections botched the announcement of the closure. The Woodward News essentially forced the department to acknowledge the impending closure sooner than it had intended to do so. So, they were not ready to deal with all the issues arising from that announcement.

Dick Pryor: More than 70 bills took effect on July 1st. One of them is the Filmed in Oklahoma Act that creates a new 30-million-dollar rebate program to incentivize movie production in the state. And not only is that a major increase in the money available for rebate, but it indicates a stunning shift in the state legislature's attitude toward supporting television, streaming and film productions in Oklahoma. How did this happen?

Shawn Ashley: Well, you might say it was a perfect storm. You know, first, a number of legislators and important legislators, such as Senate Appropriations Chair Roger Thompson and other officials like Lieutenant Governor Matt Pinnell have been touting the economic development benefits of film and television production in the state. And more frequently now, lawmakers have been able to see that as the number of productions have increased, most notably right now with the filming of “Killers of the Flower Moon” in the state. Now, proponents of this bill, a measure like this, was necessary to attract those larger movie productions and perhaps more importantly, television and streaming services series that often film in the same general location over a number of years and spend fairly large amounts of money.

Dick Pryor: Is the climate for productions already changing?

Shawn Ashley: It certainly seems to be. With the tax credits currently in place, the Film and Music Office reported the state attracted more than 30 productions in fiscal year 2020 and another 30 in fiscal year 2021, which just ended. And that included an Academy Award nominated film.

Dick Pryor: Thanks, Shawn.

Shawn Ashley: You're very welcome.

Dick Pryor: And that's Capitol Insider. If you have questions, email us at news@kgou.org or contact us on Twitter @kgounews and @ecapitol. You can also find us online at kgou.org and ecapitol.net. Until next time with Shawn Ashley, I'm Dick Pryor.

Dick Pryor has more than 25 years of experience in public service media, having previously served as deputy director, managing editor, news manager, news anchor and host for OETA, Oklahoma’s statewide public TV network. He was named general manager of KGOU Radio in November, 2016.
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