At the State Capitol, the news never ends, even in the "down time" between regular (and, increasingly, special) sessions.
Some of the things happening that caught this long-time "beat" reporter's attention: the state Health Care Authority is joining other states in crafting a new model for SoonerCare recipients, a Senator wants revisions in approval of state ballot questions,
Health Care Authority's RFPs (Requests for Proposals)
In early November, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) issues a ‘Request for Proposals” – seeking ways to implement, in the words of an agency press release “comprehensive medical delivery system for the agency’s new health care model, SoonerSelect, following Gov. Kevin Stitt’s signing of two delivery system reform bills.”
OHCA said, “the agency is committed to improving the health and lives of SoonerCare members and will hold its SoonerSelect partners to high standards through strong accountability measures.”
Kevin Corbett, the chief executive officer for OHCA, and the state Secretary of Health and Mental Health, commented: “OHCA is required to choose at least three contracted entities for medical services and one contracted entity for the children’s specialty plan. Contracted entities can include accountable care organizations, provider-led entities, and commercial plans.
Any approved health plans “will be required to provide SoonerSelect members the same health care services currently offered by SoonerCare but may offer extra benefits to help improve the health of its members.”
The state Medicaid Director, Traylor Rains, said in a statement: “We have high expectations for the contracted entities such as achieving specific quality metrics and developing strategies to address health disparities and social determinants of health. I look forward to seeing how these organizations help further our mission and improve health outcomes for Oklahomans.”
Payment and delivery system goals listed:
* Improve health outcomes for Oklahomans
* Move toward value-based payment
* Improve SoonerCare member satisfaction
* Contain costs by investing in preventive and primary care
* Increase cost predictability to the State
Forty of the 50 states engage third party organizations to administer Medicaid services, and have reported positive outcome, including, “cost containment by investing in primary care, preventive services and effective quality improvement strategies.”
Corbett said: “Working alongside these highly qualified contracted entities is the first step in strengthening our ability to serve Oklahoma.” The bidding process will ends February 8, 2023. Contracts will be awarded and announced after review.
Senator Warren Hamilton seeks new state question provisions
In a legislative staff press release circulated to jounalists just before the November 8 eleciton, State Senator Warren Hamilton said will be renew his efforts to enact changes to the state question approval process.
In the 2022 session, Hamilson’s Senate Joint Resolution 30 did not make it through the process after relegation to the Senate Rules Committee.
“We have seen several notable disasters in Oklahoma, including the lottery, ‘medical’ marijuana and Medicaid expansion, all through our flawed methodology of state questions,” Sen. Hamilton -- a Republican from McCurtain County – said in the Senate press release.
“State questions allow legislators to dodge the tough issues and present a golden opportunity for voter fraud, election tampering and out-of-state influence. A simple majority effectively ensures that rural Oklahoma has no voice, while a two-thirds majority of approval of all counties would ensure a voice for all Oklahomans.”
The resolution will return for consideration with a new number in the upcoming session at the Capitol in Oklahoma City.
Republican School Choice Foe named a ‘Leadership Fellow’
Senator Jessica Garvin of Duncan, a Republican who helped spike school choice agenda items at the State Capitol this year, has been selected as a “Leadership Fellow” for a national training program to participate and learn about “effective education policies from other states and share about Oklahoma’s educational outcomes and strategies.”
Garvin was among “31-senior-level political leaders from around the nation” selected as “a Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellow.” She will travel to the nation’s capital to start a nine-month fellowship during which she will learn (in the words of a state Senate press release), “how to cultivate smart, effective education agendas.”
News reports indicate the first meeting for the “Fellows” will concentrate on K-12 policy and early learning. After the initial in-person session, members will meet virtually, ending for a closing in-person session.
Sen. Garvin said: “Education impacts nearly every aspect of our state’s economy in some way from being a financial driver in many communities to molding future generations.
“It’s important as we shape education policy in our state that we learn from other states what has been successful or not. We don’t want to reinvent the wheel or waste any precious time in the classroom with plans that won’t work. I’m grateful for the institute for choosing me and anxious to share what I learn with my colleagues in the Senate.”
The Senate staff release touting her selection said, “Established in 2001, the Hunt Institute is an independent, nonprofit that brings together people and resources to inspire and inform elected officials and policymakers about key issues in education, resulting in visionary leaders who are prepared to take strategic action for great educational outcomes and student success. The institute partnered with Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy in 2016 to pursue research, educational partnerships, and events related to improving education policy.”
New and returning Oklahoma House and Senate members take office
Members of both the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Senate took their oaths of office at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, November 16.
At a time when several states were still waiting for a final election count, the Oklahoma balloting results were clear by November 10, and were certified early in the week after the November 8 general election.
As a state House press release pointed out: “The First Session of the 59th Legislature reconvenes on Monday, February 6. The members took their oaths of office on the anniversary of the day Oklahoma became the 46th State in the United States.”
Twenty-three returning and newly elected members of the Oklahoma Senate took the oath of office in the Senate Chamber.
New members of the Legislature's upper chamber included, from the City area, Jack Stewart, R-Yukon, and Kristen Thompson, R-Edmond -- and Ally Seifried, R-Claremore, Tom Woods, R-Westville, Todd Gollihare, R-Kellyville, Jerry Alvord, R-Lone Grove, and Grant Green, R-Wellston.
Returning members attending -- many of them from Oklahoma City and surrounding jurisdictions – included Senators David Bullard, R-Durant, Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, Sen. Bill Coleman, R-Ponca City, Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman, Chuck Hall, R-Perry, Darrell Weaver, R-Moore, Darcy Jech, R-Kingfisher, Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City, John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton, Sen. John Haste, R-Broken Arrow, Sen. Brent Howard, R-Altus, Carri Hicks, D-Oklahoma City, Sen. Brenda Stanley, R-Midwest City, Michael Brooks, D-Oklahoma City, and George Young, D-Oklahoma City. Kay Floyd of Oklahoma City, a Democrat, took the oath a few days earlier.
At the state House Chamber ceremonies, also on Nov. 16, new members included newly-elected Republicans John Kane, House District 11; Neil Hays, House District 13; Cody Maynard, House District 21; Chris Banning, House District 24; Collin Duel, House District 31; John George, House District 36; Josh Cantrell, House District 49; Nick Archer, House District 55; Clay Staires, House District 66; and Mark Tedford, House District 69.
Newly-elected House Democrats included Jared Deck, House District 44; Annie Menz, House District 45; Suzanne Schreiber, House District 70; and Amanda Swope, House District 71. Two new members from Oklahoma City participated: Ellyn Hefner, House District 87; and Arturo Alonso, House District 89.

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