We started this legislative session with lawmakers in the House and Senate filing almost 2,400 bills or joint resolutions for consideration. Session ended with 519 of those measures becoming law. This is common. Creating bills is fairly simple, but passing bills is difficult. The system is designed with built-in, bill-killing hurdles.
I’d like to report to you some of the pieces of legislation I was able to pass this session that will have a positive impact on Oklahomans.
One is the nursing home pay-for-performance plan, which is designed to improve quality of care and outcomes for the residents of our state’s nursing homes. I authored House Bill 1902 and was the principal House author of Senate Bill 280, which is the version that eventually passed and was signed into law. Sen. Frank Simpson and I worked closely together on both bills with nursing home administrators, AARP Oklahoma, nurses and other senior advocacy groups to enhance funding, increase the numbers of caregiving personnel at nursing homes and helped negotiate a pay-for-performance model designed to reward nursing homes for better health outcomes.
I've said over and over that we must do better as a state for elder healthcare services, and this is a measurable plan for achieving that goal.
Another personal highlight was pharmacy benefit managers’ (PBM) regulation, which Gov. Kevin Stitt recently signed into law via House Bill 2632. This bill will regulate PBMs, increase competition and allow people to choose which pharmacy they want to use while still getting the same prescription discounts as the big, company-owned pharmacies. Special thanks to Sen. Greg McCortney and Rep. Jon Echols for their help in getting this bill through the maze of legislative hurdles it faced. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth the fight.
Extending the sunset on the Supplemental Hospital Offset Payment Program (SHOPP) fee until 2025 was another accomplishment. This allows Oklahoma hospitals to provide additional money to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which manages the state’s Medicaid program. These fees allow us to draw down matching federal dollars equal to approximately the federal upper payment limit. This increases state Medicaid dollars without obligating the state to future payments if the federal government stops paying its share.
A glaring disappointment this session was the failure of House Bill 1056. This measure would have ensured domestic assault and battery be defined as a violent crime and offenders found guilty of this charge would have to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. Crimes against spouses or children are particularly heinous. I will not give up my efforts to protect the vulnerable. To say I am disappointed this bill stalled in the legislative process is an understatement. The bill sailed through the House with only one nay vote but never made it to a committee hearing in the Senate. I will continue to work on this.
Remember that even though session has ended, I am still available by email, and my Capitol office phone will be answered. Please feel free to reach out to me with your questions or concerns at email@example.com or (405) 557-7327.
Have a safe summer.
I am grateful for this year's session. The Legislature worked together tirelessly to create good policies and a balanced budget, and we completed the session a week early. I am proud of the work I was able to get done this session. I realize I could have done none of it without the trust and support of my colleagues. The governor has signed 23 House and Senate bills on which I was the principal author this year. Two more are on his desk, and he is likely to sign both of them.
It was a very busy and productive session. The bills I authored cover a combination of healthcare and business reform as well as government modernization efforts to bring our laws into the current century to meet the needs and wishes of Oklahoma residents.
The healthcare reforms I authored give me the most pride because they have the potential to affect Oklahomans' quality of life for years to come. As the chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Health, I had the opportunity to offer several ideas and changes that will result in long-term budget restructuring and will help us meet the needs of more Oklahomans going forward.
For example, I was able to increase our Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage (FMAP) match to allow for a 5 percent provider rate increase in the Fiscal Year 2020, which in turn will increase funding support to hospitals, health clinics, health providers and nursing homes. We will put more funding into provider rates next year to bring more certainty and confidence for Oklahomans who use these services. I also passed policy for pay-for-performance legislation to increase the quality of care for our nursing home residents.
Other lawmakers have pointed out that by far the wisest move I made for this budget is the $29 million saved to a new rate preservation fund to preserve Medicaid provider rates when the federal government’s 3-year rolling average results in a rate decline. When that $29 million is matched by federal dollars in the future it should net the state over $80 million.
The budget provides $62.8 million for Graduate Medical Education programs to support physician training for those who will serve in rural hospitals. The budget includes $10 million to decrease the Developmental Disability Services waiting list and increase provider rates, which will help some of the most vulnerable in our society. Finally, a $4.6 million increase is designated for immunizations and to staff county health departments throughout the state.
This budget also prioritizes education, giving preK-12 an additional $158 million this year over last to include a teacher pay raise and $74.3 million additional funding to classrooms. We also increased funding to CareerTechs and higher education. Transportation, public safety, and many other areas of government services are increased as well.
Perhaps best of all, we were able to save money in this budget. We set aside $200 million that will bring our state savings to about $1 billion by the end of this fiscal year. We plan to continue this until we have enough money to ensure we will not have to cut core services in the next economic downturn. We saved while increasing funding for core areas of state government by about 6 percent.
I ran on a platform of bringing sound budgeting principles to the Capitol, and this legislative session I was able to help advance those. I’m proud to be keeping my promises to those who elected me.
Now that session has ended, I will be at the Capitol less and the district more. But, I will still be available by email, and my Capitol office phone will be answered. Please feel free to reach out to me with your questions or concerns at firstname.lastname@example.org or (405) 557-7327.
Have a safe summer.
Marcus McEntire represents Oklahoma House District 50.