Carl’s Capitol Comment: Busy week at Capitol

We had another incredibly busy week in the House of Representatives last week as we worked to hear all of the Senate bills by the third-reading deadline.

We passed several measures that I’m hoping get signed into law. I would like to discuss a couple of those that I received a lot of input on over the last few weeks.   

House Bill 131 would require the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) to implement internal managed care for Oklahoma’s Medicaid program instead of outsourcing it to out-of-state, private corporations – the current managed care plan being proposed.

I appreciate so much all the governor has done for our state, but we disagree on this plan. Oklahomans need to take care of Oklahomans. The OHCA has been taking care of the disabled, blind and other fragile populations with an overhead of about 4% through the long-standing existing Medicaid program. I don’t agree that we need outside managed care companies operating with projected overhead of 10% to 15% to take care of healthy adults aged 19 to 64 who only qualify for the newly passed Medicaid, which bases coverage on income.

The plan outlined in this bill is projected to cost the state about $164 million this year. The governor’s plan is projected to cost about $2 billion to award contracts to the outside providers.  Besides cost, having the plan managed within the OHCA gives the legislators a better opportunity to remedy any problems that may occur during implementation and in providing services.

Oklahomans voted in Medicaid expansion, but it’s my job alongside other lawmakers to provide it in the most efficient and effective way. This will take some work, but I think OHCA can do it. The vast majority of hospital administrators and health care providers also favor a state-run plan.

We passed this bill in the House, but it has to return to the Senate for final approval. If it passes that chamber and makes it to the governor’s desk, he’s likely to veto it. We would need two-thirds of the members in both chambers to override that. We’ll see what happens.

Senate Bill 821 would help our local pharmacists. This bill cleans up the Patients Right to Pharmacy Choice Act that was passed in 2019. This act helps equalize the playing field for these smaller pharmacies that are selling prescription medications, offering vaccinations and quality care for their local customers. These smaller pharmacies are even losing money when they fill prescriptions for some insurers, but they do it because of their strong desire to serve their customers.

I’ve heard the argument that passing this bill will increase the price of medicine, but in rural areas, we need access to our local pharmacists. It cuts down on having to drive miles and miles to get medicine, and it keeps our local owners in business. This has been sent to the governor. I am hopeful he will sign it.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions. You may reach me by email at carl.newton@okhouse.gov, or phone me at 405-557-7339.  May God Bless you and the State of Oklahoma.

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