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23 Mar
0

RELEASE: House Splits on Health Care Authority Measure

House Splits on Measure to Require Health Care Authority To Verify Eligibility and Identity of Every Medicaid Applicant

OKLAHOMA CITY (22 March 2017) – Legislation that would require the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to verify the eligibility of every person who applies for Medicaid health-care benefits, and require every applicant to complete an identity authentication process, cleared the House of Representatives Wednesday night.

House Bill 1270 by Rep. Elise Hall, R-Oklahoma City, passed on a 63-25 vote. Every vote in support of the measure was cast by a Republican. Four Republicans joined 21 Democrats in opposition to the bill.

HB 1270 would direct the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) to verify the eligibility of every applicant for Medicaid. An amendment proposed by Rep. Collin Walke, D-Oklahoma City, deleted any reference to SNAP (the food-stamp program) and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), leaving the bill focused exclusively on Medicaid.

Hall said her intent is to ensure that “people who truly need public assistance get it.” The State of Oklahoma has “limited resources,” she said during a House committee meeting earlier this month.

The federal government estimates that nationwide, 10% of all Medicaid payments are fraudulent, Hall said.

Rep. David Perryman said records indicate most of the fraud in Medicaid occurs among medical providers, not patients. The cheating in Medicaid occurs primarily among providers who submit fraudulent invoices to the government, the Chickasha Democrat maintained.

Allegations of fraud among Medicaid providers is the province of the Attorney General’s office, said Hall. She said the state is being defrauded via “eligibility errors.” Her focus, she said, is fraud committed by individuals “receiving the benefits.” She wants their “liquid assets – bank accounts and cash” – to be monitored annually, at a minimum, but preferably quarterly.

An estimate of the potential cost of auditing all Medicaid beneficiaries once a year or every three months was unavailable Wednesday night.

According to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, almost 826,000 Oklahomans (two-thirds of them children and one-third of them adults) were enrolled in SoonerCare (this state’s Medicaid program) in February.

Considering the size of Medicaid, “Of course there’s some fraud,” said Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City. “But don’t cancel the whole program. There’s fraud in corporate welfare, but we don’t cut their programs.”

Oklahoma has “a low error rate” in its SoonerCare program, said Rep. Regina Goodwin, D-Tulsa.

In fact, the OHCA’s audited error rate – in its eligibility approvals as well as its claims payments – is less than one-half of 1%, ledgers reflect.

Oklahoma’s Medicaid program is funded with approximately $5 billion; of that amount, about $1.7 billion is state tax dollars and the remainder is federal aid. The OHCA’s share of that figure is $1 billion, and the $700 million balance is allocated to the Department of Human Services, etc.

Hall contended her legislation could save Oklahoma as much as $80 million per year.

House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, was skeptical of that estimate, asserting that it simply came from “out of the sky.”

The average Medicaid benefit for a recipient in Oklahoma is $6,370 per year, Inman said. To achieve a tax savings of up to $80 million from Medicaid audits would require nothing short of “a financial windfall,” he said. “Over 50,000 poor people would have to somehow luck into winning the lottery, or their Aunt Irene died and left them a fortune.”

“Has there been evidence of inappropriate receipt of benefits?” Rep. Meloyde Blancett, D-Tulsa, asked Hall during the House Rules Committee meeting March 1.

Not in Oklahoma, but in other states, Hall said. News stories indicate several lottery winners in Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan and New York improperly received public welfare benefits.

For example, a New York resident who began receiving $1,000 each week in 1998 after winning a scratch-off lottery game was charged with fraud in 2012 after collecting more than $4,000 in welfare benefits. And a Michigan woman received $5,475 in food and medical benefits after winning $1 million in the lottery.

HB 1270 would instruct the OHCA to review information about program recipients that might affect their continued eligibility for public benefits. “Often times the state is checking these only once a year,” Hall claimed.

However, the Oklahoma Lottery Commission says it routinely checks the names of lottery winners against DHS child support enforcement records; against Oklahoma Tax Commission rolls, to determine whether a winner has any tax payments in arrears; and with the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, to determine whether a lottery winner is collecting unemployment benefits.

Hall said she just wants to “make sure there’s no fraud and abuse in our benefit programs.” Her legislation would demonstrate that “we’re wisely using tax dollars,” she said.

She said her measure is modeled on legislation from other states. Perryman said HB 1270 is “cookie-cutter legislation” patterned after a proposal developed by the Foundation for Government Accountability, where former state Rep. Tom Newell, R-Seminole, is now a senior fellow.

During the committee meeting, Perryman described HB 1270 as “a solution looking for a problem.”

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MIKE W. RAY
Media Director, Democratic Caucus
Oklahoma House of Representatives
(405) 962-7819 office
(405) 245-4411 mobile

22 Mar
0

RELEASE: Senate Democrats Statement on Shortey Resignation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Democratic Leader John Sparks
Capitol: (405) 521-5553

Oklahoma Senate Democrats comment on resignation of Ralph Shortey

OKLAHOMA CITY – The Oklahoma Senate Democratic caucus issued a statement Wednesday through their leader, Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman, commenting on the resignation of Ralph Shortey.

“We are aware that Ralph Shortey has resigned his seat in the Oklahoma Senate. We are glad he has submitted his resignation effective immediately and that he made this decision in a fairly prompt and straightforward manner.

The people of Senate District 44 deserve a senator they can rely on and respect. They deserve to replace him with a senator who will be focused on the needs and concerns of southwest Oklahoma City as quickly as possible.

Therefore, we are calling on the governor to promptly set a special election at the earliest possible date to fill Ralph Shortey’s now vacant seat.

Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with all those affected by this situation.”

# # #

22 Mar
0

RELEASE: House Supports Dementia/Alzheimer Legislation

House Supports Legislation to Require Training In Care of Dementia/Alzheimer’s Patients

OKLAHOMA CITY (22 March 2017) – Medical professionals who care for senior citizens and dementia patients would be required to undergo specialized training each year, under legislation the state House of Representatives passed Wednesday.

House Bill 1620 by Rep. Cyndi Ann Munson, D-Oklahoma City, would direct the State Board of Health to develop rules requiring all medical and direct-care staff of state-licensed nursing and specialized facilities, adult day-care centers, assisted living centers, home health agencies and hospice agencies to complete a minimum of one hour of in-service training each year in Alzheimer’s and dementia-related care.

The curricula would have to include:

  • a description of the typical progression of the disease;
  • a review of common psychiatric and behavioral symptoms and how to approach them;
  • alternatives to physical and chemical restraints;
  • strategies for providing person-centered care; and
  • strategies for addressing social needs and providing meaningful activities for patients afflicted with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

HB 1620 was supported overwhelmingly in the House, 82-2, and will be referred to the Senate.

“I am so grateful to my colleagues for their support of House Bill 1620,” Representative Munson said. “I am overwhelmed by the support and interest in working together to make life easier for those who are affected by this disease, and their caregivers.”

Alzheimer’s is “a devastating disease” that affects many Oklahomans, she said. The State Plan, which was developed in 2009, has provided a guide for the Legislature to make addressing Alzheimer’s and dementia a priority. “It is my honor to serve on the Oklahoma State Alzheimer’s Caucus and continue the great work my predecessor, the late Rep. David Dank, championed for so many years during his legislative career,” Ms. Munson said.

An estimated 61,000 Oklahomans aged 65 or older had Alzheimer’s in 2015. Approximately $437 million in Medicaid funds were spent to care for low-income Oklahomans aged 65 and older who were living with Alzheimer’s or other dementia that year, ledgers reflect.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than five million Americans have Alzheimer’s and by 2050 an estimated 16 million will contract the disease. Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in this nation. One-third of all seniors die with Alzheimer’s or another dementia, the association reports.

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MIKE W. RAY
Media Director, Democratic Caucus
Oklahoma House of Representatives
(405) 962-7819 office
(405) 245-4411 mobile

22 Mar
0

Nunes’ Pathetic Charade Proves He’s Running A Trump Protection Racket

DNC: Nunes’ Pathetic Charade Proves He’s Running A Trump Protection Racket

WASHINGTON – DNC Senior Adviser Zac Petkanas issued the following statement:

“Former Trump transition member Devin Nunes blew what little credibility he had left with this pathetic charade. This isn’t an investigation; it’s a protection racket for Donald Trump and his fragile ego. All Nunes has achieved is to prove that we need a real independent investigation and to raise serious questions about why the Trump team was in communication with foreign individuals under FISA warrant. It’s time for an independent 9/11 style commission and a special prosecutor. Now.”

21 Mar
0

Is Corporation Commission Considered Archaic?

Is Corporation Commission Considered Archaic?

OKLAHOMA CITY (21 March 2017) – A task force to evaluate whether the Oklahoma Corporation Commission is “properly structured to efficiently operate in the 21st Century” would be established by legislation the state House of Representatives endorsed Tuesday evening.

House Bill 1377 would create a “Twenty-first Century Corporation Commission Task Force.” The bill would direct the panel to conduct:

  • a performance assessment of agency workload levels, time required to process its workload, and the agency’s reputation among its stakeholders;
  • a structural assessment of the composition of the commission the impact of Open Meetings Act requirements, trends related to the commissioners’ six-year terms of office, the “appropriateness” of the current number of commissioners (three), and the “effectiveness” of leadership and authority;
  • an assessment of the state mission to determine accuracy “in light of modern-day agency functions,” “appropriateness and necessity,” and whether performance of certain functions would be better suited in other agencies;
  • a funding assessment to determine whether the agency is properly funded, the current funding mechanisms that are available to the agency;
  • a staffing evaluation to determine whether the agency is “properly staffed” to meet its mission, whether the staffing structure of the agency is efficient, and whether the staff has “the autonomy needed to perform their duties.”

Although an amendment to HB 1377 specifies that the panel would be comprised of 14 members, the author of the legislation, Rep. Weldon Watson, indicated that number may increase. The intent of HB 1377 is to “develop a dialogue between the Corporation Commission and those they regulate, advocacy groups, ratepayers and others,” the Tulsa Republican said.

At a minimum the task force is expected to include state legislators, representatives of the oil/gas industry, someone from a pipeline utility or pipeline company, plus representatives and customers of the electricity utility industry, the telecommunications industry and the transportation industry.

The task force would be instructed by HB 1377 to prepare and deliver its final report by 1 December 2018 to the Governor, the House Speaker and the Senate President Pro Tem.

The Corporation Commission was established at statehood in 1907, by Article IX, Section 15, of the Oklahoma Constitution.

Today the state agency has approximately 57 field personnel in its Oil and Gas Conservation Division who are responsible for monitoring 200,000 oil, natural-gas and wastewater disposal wells, and has approximately 18 fuel specialists (field inspectors) who monitor 44,000 fuel storage tanks (primarily at service stations) throughout the state. The agency has 15 inspectors to oversee 255 natural-gas and hazardous liquid pipeline operators, more than 39,000 miles of natural gas pipelines and more than 3,800 miles of hazardous liquid pipelines. The commission regulates approximately 400 utilities such as electricity, natural-gas and telephone companies, cotton gins, and a few small, privately owned water companies. And the Corporation Commission has a Railroad Department that has jurisdiction over railway crossings of roads, streets and highways in Oklahoma.

HB 1377 passed the House without opposition, 91-0, and will be transmitted to the Senate. The bill’s title was stricken, which will enable the House and the Senate to fine tune the measure before a finished product is ready for consideration in both chambers.

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MIKE W. RAY
Media Director, Democratic Caucus
Oklahoma House of Representatives
(405) 962-7819 office
(405) 245-4411 mobile

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