The Roundup

The Okie Weekly Reader, Health and Taxes Edition

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Posted 06.29.12

Each week, we scour the Web for the most interesting Okie-related news being reported both in the state and outside of it. We’re always looking for new links, so if you’ve read something you think we should see, let us know in the comments.

Photo courtesy Flickr user seiuhealthcare775nw.

  • In a landmark decision, the United States Supreme Court upheld President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which aims to provide affordable access to health insurance for millions of previously uninsured Americans. Some hailed it as a victory—“Today the Supreme Court refused to sign the death warrant for tens of thousands of people,” a blogger for The Huffington Post wrote—but legislators and legislative hopefuls in Oklahoma were quick to show their disdain. Markwayne Mullin, a GOP candidate for the Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District, who faces a runoff in August, told The Oklahoman: “This is an extremely sad day for our country… ObamaCare needs to be repealed, plain and simple.” In a state where 17 percent of the population—about 624,480 residents—are uninsured, you think it would be a happy day. But the state’s GOP-controlled government has been steadfast in its opposition to the law from the beginning, refusing $54 million in federal funds to establish a health care exchange, which it now must do in five months in order to meet deadline, or the federal government will impose its own.
  • One important question is whether or not Oklahoma will expand Medicaid coverage for its residents, which is a major component of the law and allows more low-income citizens to receive health care coverage through the program. SCOTUS determined that the law’s way of enforcing that expansion—by revoking federal Medicaid funds from states that refused to match it with their own—unconstitutional. “So now states have the carrot to expand Medicaid but not the stick,” a Slate blogger explained. Jo Kilgore, a spokeswoman for the Health Care Authority, told the Associated Press: “The way we’ve read it, it looks like the court is giving states the choice.” A spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin said she “was not prepared to discuss her position on the expansion of Medicaid eligibility.” From Slate:

Since your state’s citizens have to pay taxes to the federal government one way or the other, you’d have to be pretty crazy to refuse the carrot, if you ask me. But ideological zeal may well lead some states to turn it down. In that case, substantially more people than the law’s authors expected might find themselves eligible for either hardship waivers from the mandate or subsidies to buy insurance on exchanges.

  • We’ll continue our coverage of the SCOTUS decision on the Affordable Care Act and its implications for Oklahoma next week, with stories online and a live streaming interview with John Schumann, writer, internist, and educator at the University of Oklahoma’s School of Community Medicine. Schumann has spoken to us before about health care in Oklahoma, and you can watch that video below. Stay tuned to our website and Facebook and Twitter pages for updates to that coverage and an opportunity to submit your questions for John before our interview.

  • On Tuesday, Oklahomans cast their ballots in statewide primary elections, and, as the Associated Press reported, efforts by Tea Party-supported candidates to upset incumbents largely failed. “Tea party-backed candidates for House and Senate seats struggled Tuesday in their quest to shift the Oklahoma Legislature further to the right, as the movement did throughout the country two years ago,” the AP reported. A story on KOSU Radio suggested perhaps Oklahoma has become “too conservative” for most citizens, and its pendulum might be slowly swinging back to the center (or just right of center).
  • Chesapeake Energy Corp. named a new chairman of the board last week in Archie Dunham , a native Oklahoman and former president and CEO of Conoco. Chesapeake is paying him $1.1 million this year to turn the company around, Bloomberg Businessweek reported, and paying its four other new board members $350,000 each. NPR’s StateImpact Oklahoma offered an easy-to-understand primer of the most significant aspects of the new chairman and board, including the fact that they shift the company’s power out of the hands of embattled CEO Aubrey McClendon.
  • Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett’s efforts to whip his city into shape is still garnering national media attention. This week, the city was featured on the Rachael Ray Show for having lost 1 million pounds collectively.
  • Tulsa’s Mayor Dewey Bartlett also got a pat on the back recently, when his efforts to reduce costs were touted by Bloomberg Philanthropies. The nonprofit organized the Mayors Challenge to “to celebrate the creative problem solving and incredible innovation that is happening in city halls from coast to coast” by awarding cash prizes to the five mayors with “boldest ideas.” The organization lauded Bartlett’s efforts to “make local government work better, faster, and cheaper” as a “great example.”

Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett learned on his first day in office in 2009 that his city needed to identify at least $10 million in cost savings to keep Tulsa up and running.

Rather than resorting exclusively to traditional saving strategies, Mayor Bartlett and his team adopted an innovative strategy that combined managed competition and gain sharing to help the city capture efficiencies while keeping morale high.

Cities across America are facing mounting fiscal pressure, which suggests a need for creative approaches like Tulsa’s in cities across the country.

Holly Wall, News Editor