Editor’s Notebook: SHOPPing, no exchanges allowed, Chamber votes, Preston’s projections

Efforts stretching across a half-decade concluded last Friday (May 13) when Governor Mary Fallin signed House Bill 1381, the bill creates the Supplemental Hospital Offset Payment Program (SHOPP). The hospital provider “assessment” or fee (some had called it a tax).

In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, Fallin said the law “will be a big boost for our medical community and will help to improve access to quality medical care for all of our citizens. H.B. 1381 is an especially important bill for rural Oklahoma, where some hospitals might be forced to close without this additional support.” 

When the measure, by Rep. Doug Cox of Grove and Sen. David Myers of Ponca City, cleared the House on May 11, Craig W. Jones of the state Hospital Association commented, “We are exceedingly pleased with the House’s strong favorable vote. … This bill has been a priority of the Oklahoma Hospital Association for quite some time.”

Fred Morgan, president of the State Chamber said the law lessens cost shifting, in which privately insured individuals bear the costs for provision of health care for the uninsured. Morgan said, “This practice, which leads to higher health care costs for us all, must come to an end.”

The bill had strong support in both chambers of the Legislature. House Democrats strongly backed the measure, and encouraged Gov. Fallin to sign it into law. Democratic leader Scott Inman of Del City thanked Republican Rep. Cox, a medical doctor, for pressing the issue forward. 

Inman also saluted “past legislators who since 2006 took up this mantle on behalf of the Oklahoma Hospital Association and indigent patients. My good friend and former colleague Lucky Lamons introduced this bill every year for six years, through 2010, but each year the bill stalled.”

The SHOPP measure authorizes the Health Care Authority to put on hospitals an assessment of 2.5% of annual net patient revenue (based on 2009 Medicare costs). The result builds $269 million in a federal match. Of the resulting $421 million, $338 million would then go to hospitals as “supplemental payments,” while $83 million would maintain SoonerCare payment rates. The fee sunsets in 2014.

Jeannie McDaniel, a Tulsa Democrat in the House, credited the hospital association for holding meetings to focus on the law and craft it to avoid or reduce the likelihood of legal challenges.

Health exchange grant: still dead 

Ardent critics of the federal health care law have, in hallway discussions at the Capitol, worried that the state Department of Health might get the state re-involved in the health exchange system. 

However, in response to a question from CapitolBeatOK, the Health Department’s Terry Cline says “The Oklahoma State Department of Health does not have any part to play in Oklahoma’s announced withdrawal from the ‘innovation grant’ process for the health exchange.”

In early May, CapitolBeatOK reported that Nico Gomez, right-hand man of Mike Fogarty of the Health Care Authority, confirmed “All grant activities have ceased.” 
Chamber of errors, or difference of opinion?

The State Chamber designated ten legislators as “anti-business” in a recent legislative update. That group included Republican Reps. Randy Terrill of Oklahoma City, Mike Reynolds of Oklahoma City, and John Bennett of Sallisaw, along with Democrats Richard Morrissette of Oklahoma City, Eric Proctor of Tulsa, Larry Glenn of Miami, Wade Rousselot of Wagoner, Steve Kouplen of Beggs, Will Fourkiller of Tahlequah and Rebecca Hamilton of Oklahoma City. 

Criteria included more than a dozen issues, including SHOPP (see above), taxes on CNG vehicles, discrimination provisions, lawsuit reforms, legal services, school grading, medical loan repayment incentives to retain rural doctors, manufacturing sales tax exemptions, and oil and gas incentives. 

The Chamber listing for one vote was wrong when it came to Reps. Proctor and Rousselot. Jennifer Monies of the State Chamber told CapitolBeatOK both legislators were contacted and given an apology.

However, Rep. Hamilton, a Democrat like Proctor and Rousselot, says the Chamber apparently “has a hard time telling the difference between a ‘yes’ and a ‘no’ vote.”

She voted for the SHOPP bill, both this year and in past years, yet it is included on the listing that made her one of the top 10 “anti-business” solons in the Chamber’s eyes. However, Monies says Hamilton made the list despite her support for the SHOPP bill. 

Rep. Hamilton believes the State Chamber’s animus traces itself to her support for measures to ban embryonic stem cell research. Hamilton said, “The fact that The State Chamber of Commerce used its power to defeat pro-life measures that would protect the unborn tells you where their priorities lie.” 

Hamilton’s defense, in a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, concluded by saying, “Despite its inaccuracies, I don’t mind having my name on this hit list. I view it as an acknowledgement that I represent the people of District 89 and not the wealthy special interests who want to prey on them. I am proud of my unyielding support for the rights of working people. 

“I only hope that someday The State Chamber will join me in standing for American jobs for Americans, mom and pop business owners, working people, and the sanctity of human life.”

Oil patch surge boosts government revenues

April’s resurgence in the Oklahoma “oil patch” helped boost state government revenue, according to state Finance Director Preston Doerflinger’s monthly analysis.
Black gold (oil) drove the surge, with 183 energy rigs active in the state, a 50% hike over a year ago. Natural gas prices remain low, however, preventing the increase from being more impressive. 

Sales tax and income taxes continued to rise as the state’s economy remains much healthier than most of the rest of the United States.