OK-SAFE, Inc. Blog

February 22, 2012

Joint Committee Finally Releases Report – Big Surprise! They Want Exchange AND Another Trust

OK-SAFE, Inc. – After almost a two month delay, the Joint Legislative Committee on Federal Health Care Reform has finally released it’s final report, 3 weeks after the start of OK legislative session.

The Governor and Leadership had seen the committee report much earlier, and legislation implementing the committee’s findings has already been planned and reserved.

No Big Surprises

The Legislature’s February 22, 2012 press release contained no big surprises, especially for those who have been following this state’s years-long implementation of health care reform, via both the HITECH Act of 2009 and PPACA (“Obama Care”).

There was no real surprise either, when yesterday (2/21/12) it was confirmed that SB 1116, a bill to repeal the title of law that created the Oklahoma Health Information Exchange Trust (OHIET), would not get a hearing in the Senate.

The Senate Leadership, and it’s author Sen. Brian Crain, made sure the bill would not get heard.

February 22, 2012 Press Release Excerpt:

“The committee’s final report (attached) recommends that Oklahoma: Continue to fight the federal health care law in court; better educate the public about ways to improve their health; prepare for a dramatic expansion of Medicaid eligibility due to PPACA; begin developing a market-based state health insurance exchange in order to prevent imposition of a federal exchange in Oklahoma; form a permanent legislative committee to monitor issues related to the federal health care law; and increase medical residency programs in order to address current and future doctor shortages – particularly in rural areas.

What the committee is not mentioning here is the fact the work to align Oklahoma with all the technology provisions of both the HITECH Act of 2009, and the PPACA, has already been started, facilitated by legislation creating electronic health records, and by the creation of a public trust called the Oklahoma Health Information Exchange Trust, or OHIET.  If the state builds an exchange, it may say OKLAHOMA (Insure Oklahoma) on the outside, but the inside functionality, and IT standards, will be all federally compliant and interoperable.

The release continues:

“Regarding health insurance exchanges, the report recommends Oklahoma begin taking steps to implement a state-based, free market health insurance exchange. The recommended exchange is similar to the one in development by the state of Utah since before PPACA’s existence. Utah’s exchange model was recommended to the committee by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn. The recommended Oklahoma exchange would be housed in Insure Oklahoma, which would be spun off from the Oklahoma Health Care Authority and turned into a public trust.”

Besides pointing out the clear contradiction in the statement “state-based, free market health insurance exchange”, (you can’t have both state involvement AND be free-market), this release just confirms the state of Oklahoma, under Republican leadership, is ready to implement a federally compliant exchange, while giving the appearance of fighting “Obama Care”.

Another Trust?

The OHIET is a public-beneficiary trust that was created by stealth in the last week of May 2010.  It is responsible for the implementation of the technology infrastructure in this state that makes “Obama Care” work, establishing the ‘network of networks’ linking the patient (that’s you), the providers, and the payers.   The OHIET operates with no legislative oversight, and as the State Designated Entity (SDE), they can solicit and receive federal grants, award contracts, issue bonds, and incur debt.

In fact, due to timeline extensions by the HHS they could end up soliciting the very same $54M Early Innovator Grant that Gov. Fallin “rejected” in the spring of 2011.

The OHIET is currently using federal grant money to operate (see the Challenge Grant), and are busy awarding each other contracts for health information exchange.

The OHIET trust model was drafted by the law firm Crowe and Dunlevy.  One assumes that this same firm has had a hand in drafting the proposed insurance exchange trust language, transforming Insure Oklahoma into an insurance exchange.

It is virtually impossible to terminate a trust; there has to be political will in the Legislature anyway to make to make it happen.  The Oklahoma legislature, under Republican Governor Mary Fallin, does not want to stop the implementation of health care reform, aka “Obama Care.”

Instead, the Republican-led OK Legislature wants to keep on doing what they’ve been doing – implementing “Obama Care” while giving the appearance of opposing “Obama Care.”

It’s an election year – time to flip some Houses.

Both Committee Chairs – Sen. Gary Stanislawski and Rep. Glen Mulready have indicated they would not have supported SB 1116, saying they prefer a patient “opt-in/out” option.  This, of course, would leave the OHIET, and it’s agenda, intact.

February 22, 2012 Press Release in it’s entirety is available here.

The Final Report of the Joint Committee on Health Care Law is available here.

January 12, 2012

UPDATED! OK-SAFE Training in Dates – Citizen Involvement in the Legislative Process – One Class Left

UPDATE 1/31/12: One more training class left:  Saturday, February 18, 2012 in Norman, OK.  See time, location and agenda below.  Remember to bring your pcs and/note taking material as these are working sessions. Handouts provided.

UPDATE: Due to Tulsa County’s precinct meetings being scheduled for Saturday, February 4th, 2012, the Norman Tea Party has agreed to move their Citizen Involvement training date to Saturday, February 18th, 2012.  Same time, same location.   Thanks!

OK-SAFE, Inc. – Upcoming Training Dates

In anticipation of the upcoming 2012 Legislative Session in Oklahoma, OK-SAFE will be conducting their annual Citizen Involvement in the Legislative Process Training.  These training classes are working sessions, so please be prepared to bring a laptop/notebook pc and notepaper.  Handouts will be provided.

These events are free and open to the public. We do ask, however, for a small donation to offset the associated expenses. Light refreshments will be served.

The Oklahoma Legislative session begins on the Monday, February 6, 2012 and runs through the last Friday of May.  This year plans to every bit as contentious as last, since more people are aware of the bad legislation being passed in this state.

For instance, last year’s HB 2130, dealing with the health insurance exchanges, is still a live round. This highly controversial bill passed the OK House by a narrow margin on March 17th, 2011.  Due to all the backlash the bill was not heard in the Senate, but because it was not voted on, it is still an active bill.  Diligence will be needed by all those with concerns about the “Obama Care” health insurance exchanges – there will be several attempts by this legislature to establish one.

Training/Working Session Dates and Locations

Tulsa –

Date: Saturday, January 21, 2012 (COMPLETED – Thanks for attending)

Time: 9:00 am to 1:00 pm

Location: HQ building, 1008-B N. Hickory Ave., Broken Arrow, OK

Oklahoma City –

Date: Saturday, January 28, 2012 (COMPLETED – Thanks for attending!)

Time: 1 pm to 5 pm

Location: The Village Library, 10307 N. Pennsylvania Ave., north Oklahoma City, OK

Norman, OK – NOTE NEW DATE!

Date: Saturday, February 4, 2012  February 18, 2012

Time: 9:30 am to 1:00 pm

Location: First Assembly of God Church in Norman, 2500 E. Lindsey, Norman, OK (NOTE: Address Correction Made 1/18/12!)

Note: Host is Norman Tea Party.

Agenda:

 1st Hour

  • Introductory – The basics of citizen involvement in the legislative process.  1) Overview of the Legislative Process in OK; 2) Identifying your legislator, 3) Entering contact information in cell phones and contact list; 4) How to write an email to a legislator; 5) Making the OK Legislature/OSCN your home pages.

2nd Hour –

  • Intermediate – Builds on Hour 1. 1) The OK legislative process, i.e. interim studies, bills introduced, bill committee assignments; 2) The committee process, and when to advocate for a bill; 3) Creating group email lists for both House and Senate Committee members, 4) Understanding the role of Speaker, Pro-Temp, Floor leader, and Whips.

3rd Hour –

  • Advanced – Builds on Hours 1 & 2. 1) Understanding political doublespeak, i.e. smaller, smarter government; economic development; knowledge-based economy; 2) How to read a bill with understanding and find the titles of law; 3) Understanding Health Care Reform and the OHIET Trust: 4) Federal grants and who benefits from the passage of legislation.

The OK Legislative Session begins on Monday, February 6, 2012 and ends on the last Friday on May.  This year will prove to be

November 29, 2011

Opposing “Obama Care” – Letter to the Editor

The state of Oklahoma is busy implementing the provisions of  “Obama Care”, while appearing to oppose “Obama Care”.

Must be politics as usual in Oklahoma.

Below is this writer’s letter to the editor on the subject of health care reform.  Perhaps you could write a letter of your own to your local paper.

Now’s the time. The legislative session starts soon – on the first Monday of February  – and the legislators are busy preparing their bill requests for 2012.

Is it too much to hope these requests will include repealer bills, reversing those bills passed in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 that laid the groundwork for single-provider/single payer “universal health care” in Oklahoma?

The Letter:

In November 2010, Oklahomans passed SQ 756, ostensibly opposing “Obama Care”, by 65%.  This measure added a new section of law to the State Constitution, saying a person did not have to “participate” in a health care system. 

 With this constitutional amendment Oklahomans made a strong statement – clear opposition to government-run healthcare and support for the free-market. 

 However, during the last days of the 2010 legislative session, legislators used a health care bill dealing with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), to create a public-beneficiary trust called the Oklahoma Health Information Exchange Trust, or OHIET. (SB 1373; the trust language was added to the COPD bill in the very last week of session in 2010).

 This trust can solicit and accept federal grants, award contracts, issue/sell bonds, and make contracts, including those with any government or any sovereignty.  It can do all things necessary to establish the entire technological infrastructure necessary for “Obama Care” to work, including the exchanges.  And it can do so without any legislative oversight. 

 By creating this trust, it appears that the Republican-led legislature, as well as the governor, both past and present, is working to undermine the will of the people.

 Initially, the newly-elected Fallin accepted a $54 million dollar Early Innovator Grant from the federal government, to implement the IT provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, aka “Obama Care”).  The Grant would have enabled Oklahoma’s Health Care Authority (and others) to establish the framework of a Healthcare Insurance Exchange – an insurance exchange that will plug into a developing system meant to access, use and distribute very private patient medical records. Under pressure, the Fallin administration rejected the Early Innovator Grant and, with it, Obama Care. 

 So we thought.

 The OHIET trust, despite the wishes of the people, is still aligning Oklahoma’s health care system to the federal government’s standards and requirements; will cause Oklahoma to link into the Nationwide Health Information Network and national insurance programs; and will allow for the collection and sharing of our highly personal medical data, virtually from cradle-to-grave, eventually allowing this information to be shared with the Dept. of Homeland Security, and even globally.

 This type of health care system is doing an “end-run” around liberty, privacy and virtually any need for search warrants. 

 It is not only Democrats who are implementing this new healthcare system against the will of the people – it is Republicans, too, from the Governor to State Legislators, to state agencies. 

 Time is short. Oklahomans need to call their legislators and demand they terminate this trust before the backdoor delivery of “Obama Care” is achieved.

 Signed,

Amanda Teegarden

Executive Director

OK-SAFE

November 17, 2011

OK-SAFE Response to Federal Health Care Reform committee

OK-SAFE, Inc.

AP reporter Sean Murphy on Tuesday asked OK-SAFE Executive Director Amanda Teegarden for some comments about the 2011 Joint Legislative Committee and Health Care Reform Law. (Teegarden spoke to this committee on 11/3/11 in Tulsa.)

Formed at the conclusion of the last legislative session to examine the impact of the federal health care reform law on Oklahoma, this committee held its’ fifth (and final) meeting on Tuesday, 11/15/11 in the House chambers.

Video of the meetings is posted on the OK House website.

Below are the five questions asked and OK-SAFE’s responses.*

Q. 1 )   Do you think the Oklahoma Legislature should ignore the federal requirement that a health care exchange be established? If so, why?  

  • Yes, we think the Oklahoma Legislature should ignore the federal requirements for an exchange.
  •  While we can appreciate the complexity of the health care issue in general, we believe that the main problem with this committee’s efforts was the fact that health care reform was not defined to begin with.  Health care reform is actually about the development of the IT (information technology) framework that establishes a Nationwide Health Information Network, the creation of an electronic health record on everyone, the flow of highly personal information across jurisdictions, and government access to everyone’s health and medical records.
  • Several presenters actually spoke about this Nationwide Health Information Network as a “federal data hub” – one presenter referred to what the feds are doing as being like “something out of a TV show.”
  • What this “hub” does is allow the federal government access to any and all information a state may have on it’s citizens, including their health and medical records.
  • The state of Oklahoma is progressively developing the infrastructure necessary to help facilitate this federal data hub, sometimes referred to a “globally integrated and networked intelligence enterprise”.

Q. 2)   What about the provision that provides if a state doesn’t establish an exchange, the feds will do it for them?

  • The state of Oklahoma has been establishing “health care reform” for a while now, and in 2010 established a public-beneficiary public trust called the Oklahoma Health Information Exchange Trust (OHIET).  (SB 1373 in 2010).
  • This trust is establishing the ‘network of networks’ that allow for the seamless flow of electronic health records (including medical records) throughout the state, and elsewhere.
  • The OHIET’s purpose is to establish the framework for health information exchange , to establish a ‘network of networks’ and to link providers, payers and patients.
  • According the OHIET’s Cooperative Agreement with the Office of the National Coordinator (the feds), the OHIET plans to align the state’s health information exchange(s) with the federal requirements.
  • Because the OHIET trust has been actively implementing the technological infrastructure necessary for “ObamaCare” to function in this state, it doesn’t matter if the state establishes a state-based health insurance exchange or lets the federal government establish it for us.  The functionality of a state-based insurance exchange will be the same as the federal governments exchange and it will be linked to the health information exchanges.

The OHIET HIE logic model. Do we really want this system in Oklahoma? Do we want to make it easier for the feds to access our health records?

Q. 3)   Do you think the state should count on the health care law being overturned/dismantled by a the Supreme Court or a future administration?

  • Because of the OHIETs activities and other agencies’ activities, it won’t really matter if the Court finds the individual mandate unconstitutional. The technological framework establishing the two exchanges – the health information and the health insurance exchange – and linking to the Nationwide Health Information Network, is moving forward.
  • The only differences allowed in a state-based insurance exchange would be those differences that don’t make a difference.  For instance, the state has some flexibility in defining who the Navigators will be and the role they’ll play, and whether the exchange website portal functions like Expedia or not.
  • All of the technological standards, interoperability and information sharing requirements, as well as government and third party access to records, will be aligned with the federal governments requirements.

Q. 4)   What are your thoughts about the ability of the tea party and other grassroots conservative groups like yours to successfully fight against the establishment of the exchanges and to resist the implementation of the federal health care law in Oklahoma?

  • While we’re not speaking for all the grassroots groups in Oklahoma, we think the state should not establish a health insurance exchange. It’s contrary to what the people of Oklahoma want, and we already voted against it  (at least, we thought we did).
  • Politically, it would be better to let the feds take all the blame for what is going to happen.  Any legislator who decides to move forward with an exchange – whether a state-based non-profit, a for-profit, or a hybrid – is going to be forever linked to it.
  • Next year is an election year – it is my understanding that the citizens of Oklahoma will be making an issue of the health insurance exchanges.

Q. 5)   What are your thoughts in general about this task force and the work they’ve conducted, recommendations they should make?

  • In general, the committee chairs leaned toward speakers that favored the establishment of a state-based insurance exchange and who advocated for following the requirements of ARRA and PPACA.  Other than two speakers from OCPA, OK-SAFE was about the only other “conservative” organization featured.
  • OK-SAFE Recommendations: Don’t build a state-based exchange in any format.  Allow providers, payers and patient an escape route – they should not have to play (or pay) into this “network of networks”; let them function outside any and all exchanges without penalty.
  • Further recommendation:  Terminate the OHIET trust and audit the OHCA.

*It is not known when, or if, these responses will used by the AP reporter, who sent his request on 11/15/11.

In the meantime, write your legislator and tell them we still mean NO to “Obamacare” – and this includes the exchanges.

[Go to http://www.oklegislature.gov, click on Legislators to see contact information.]

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