Feds grant 1-year waiver for Insure Okla. program

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
09/11/2013 08:32 AM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – The federal government will let the state operate its Insure Oklahoma health care plan for another year to buy state leaders more time to consider an alternative plan to provide coverage to the working poor, Gov. Mary Fallin announced on Sept. 6.

Flanked by state health officials, Fallin called the extension a “great win for the people of Oklahoma.”

“Insure Oklahoma has been around since 2005. It’s been a success for thousands of small businesses that have used it to help their employees purchase insurance,” Fallin said. “It’s been a success for tens of thousands of families of modest means, who would be uninsured without it. Moving forward, I strongly encourage our federal partners to review Insure Oklahoma’s many successes and announce their support for a permanent, ongoing program.”

Insure Oklahoma, which provides coverage to about 30,000 Oklahoma residents through both individual and employer-sponsored plans, was scheduled to cease operating at the end of the year. Federal officials expected many of the recipients to be eligible for Medicaid expansion if they earned up to 138 percent of federal poverty, or about $32,499 for a family of four.

But amid bitter resistance from some Republicans, Fallin rejected both the Medicaid expansion and the opportunity to set up a state-based insurance exchange where Oklahomans could purchase health insurance with federal tax subsidies. Both were offered under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Instead, Oklahoma residents who earn up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level, or $94,200 for a family of four, will be able to use federal tax subsidies to buy policies online through a federal exchange beginning Oct. 1.

But some state residents, including thousands on the Insure Oklahoma program, would have fallen into a “coverage crater” where they would have been ineligible for tax subsidies or Medicaid.

Under the one-year waiver, about 8,000 individuals currently on Insure Oklahoma who earn between 100 and 200 percent of federal poverty will instead purchase their health insurance through the federal exchange. Some of the co-pays required through Insure Oklahoma also will be reduced, including a $25 co-pay for doctor visits that will drop to $4, said Nico Gomez, director of the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the state agency that oversees the Medicaid program in Oklahoma.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services said federal officials are urging states to accept billions of dollars in available Medicaid funding made possible through the new federal health care law, which provides 100 percent federal funding for three years and then drops incrementally to 90 percent.

“We look forward to working with Oklahoma and all other states in bringing a flexible, state-based approach to Medicaid coverage expansion and encourage the state to explore these options,” spokeswoman Emma Sandoe said in a statement.

Republican legislators favor the Insure Oklahoma program over Medicaid expansion because individual recipients pay modest co-pays, with the rest of the premiums covered by employer payments in some cases, along with state and federal matching funds.

“There’s some personal responsibility in the plan,” Fallin said.

The state’s portion of the funding comes from a tobacco tax approved by voters and is used to draw down matching federal Medicaid dollars.

News

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/01/2015 04:00 PM
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — A recent report says that Oklahoma Indian gaming revenue increased more than $60 million in 2013, but the amount of tribal fees paid to the state has decreased by more than $3.1 million. The Oklahoman reports the 2015 edition of Casino City's Indian Gaming Industry Report released Monday revealed the revenue disparity and notes that it may be due to the change in types of gaming machines found in Indian casinos. Oklahoma tribes are required to pay the state exclusivity fees based on the amount of revenue they generate from operating Class III games like slot machines or roulette. The report noted the number of Class II games, which tribes do not have to pay state fees for, has increased from 34 percent in 2008 to 42 percent in 2013, while the percentage of Class III games has declined from 66 percent to 58 percent. "This trend toward more Class II machines in recent years is interesting and its starting point (2009) coincides with the withdrawal of restrictive Class II gaming machine regulations that were originally proposed by the NIGC (National Indian Gaming Commission) in May 2006 and ultimately withdrawn in September 2008," the report by economist Alan Meister noted. Mesiter told the paper that not having to pay exclusivity fees may be just one factor in the economic considerations that tribes make when changing from Class III to Class II games. Choctaw Nation spokeswoman Judy Allen said her tribe likes to offer a variety of games to its customers so there has always been a mix of Class II and Class III games in their casinos. The report said revenue reached nearly $3.8 billion in 2013, but the state's fee revenue dropped from $127.8 million in 2012 to $124.7 million in 2013, providing less money for education, mental health services and general operations.
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/31/2015 02:00 PM
MUSKOGEE, Okla. – Bacone College senior forward Matt Qualls has been named to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics 2014-15 Division I Men’s Basketball All-America teams. Qualls, of Tahlequah, was named to the NAIA Third Team All-America list. Qualls led the country and Red River Athletic Conference in scoring at 26.0 points per game and pulled down a conference leading 11 boards per game. He scored 351 points in the 2013-14 season and 676 points in 2014-15 for a total of 1,027 points. Additionally, Qualls was named RRAC All-Conference first team and a NABC-NAIA Men’s Basketball All-Star for his efforts during the 2014-2015 season. On Feb. 20, Qualls scored a career-high 47 points against LSU Shreveport in an 88-82-overtime loss. Qualls also pulled in 19 rebounds on his way to winning player of the week. He also became just the third player in school history to record 1,000 career points since the Bacone Warriors of Muskogee joined the NAIA. Though frequently injured this season, the Cherokee Nation citizen picked up other honors during the season including being named the Red River Athletic Conference “Men’s Basketball Player of the Week” three times and being named the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics “National Division I Men’s Basketball Player” of the Week for Feb. 16-22. He is studying health and physical education at Bacone and hopes to get a chance in the D-League, the National Basketball Association’s development league, or join a professional team in Europe. Eventually, he said wants to be a coach like his father Leroy Qualls.
BY JAMI MURPHY
Reporter
03/31/2015 12:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation Supreme Court will hear an appeal regarding the disqualification of Tribal Councilor Julia Coates as a deputy chief candidate by the tribe’s Election Commission. The EC stated that Coates did not meet the residency requirements to run for the seat in the upcoming 2015 general election. The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments at 2 p.m. on April 1 at the CN Courthouse in Tahlequah. In the appeal filed March 20, Coates states the EC’s decision is contrary to a previous court ruling. “The Commission’s decision is contrary to this Court’s holding in Mayes v. Cherokee Nation Election Commission,” the appeal states. The SC has until 5 p.m. April 3 to make a decision on Coates’ candidacy. To view the court documents filed in the case, visit <a href="http://www.cherokeecourts.org/SupremeCourt/SC1504CoatesvFishinghawkRichmond.aspx" target="_blank">http://www.cherokeecourts.org/SupremeCourt/SC1504CoatesvFishinghawkRichmond.aspx</a>. Check back with the Cherokee Phoenix for updates.
BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
03/31/2015 10:00 AM
CLAREMORE, Okla. (AP) - The Claremore Police Department and the Cherokee Nation Marshal’s Office recently entered into a cross-deputation agreement, allowing officers from both agencies to serve in each other’s jurisdictions in case of an emergency or any situation. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for about 15 years, when I became deputy marshal,” said Cherokee Nation Marshal Shannon Buhl. “Claremore is one of the largest cities in our jurisdiction we were never cross-deputized with. What that meant was they couldn’t help us if we needed something and we couldn’t help them out if they needed assistance in Native American jurisdictions that are within city limits, such as K2 product being sold at tribal smoke shops.” Buhl said this agreement has been a long time coming. Cross-deputation agreements first went into effect in July 1992 when the U.S. Congress provided authority for the U.S. Secretary of Interior to enter into agreements between the U.S. and Native American tribes and nations, states and their political subdivisions in accordance with the Indian Law Enforcement Reform Act of August 1990. “Cross-deputation can be misunderstood a lot of the time. There’s a lot to it,” said Buhl. “It’s not a mutual aid agreement. There are mutual aid agreements, such as that between the sheriff’s office and Claremore PD or Verdigris; however, Native American tribes cannot create a mutual aid agreement with non-Native American affiliations. “What that means is you have to go through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the city, agency and the State Attorney General’s Office, which can be a long process.” Buhl said one of the reasons the cross-deputation agreement took place is because of efforts from the Claremore Police Department. “Police Chief Stan Brown has been very proactive in the city. He’s a huge supporter of cooperative agreements with us, the sheriff’s office and other agencies, and I think he’s in some ways taken the lead on this to make this happen for us,” said Buhl. “It’s a good day for the people of Claremore and for the people of the Cherokee Nation.” Brown said the agreement acts as a “force multiplier.” “The CPD now has the opportunity to utilize nationally-recognized special operations teams through the marshal’s office for everything from high-priority arrests, to hostage rescue and search and rescue operations,” Brown said. “Anytime you have agencies that can cooperate, it makes the community safer and it raises the level of service that both agencies can bring to the population.” The Cherokee Nation Marshal’s Office covers 9,000 square miles and holds a total of 52 deputations with agencies across the 14 historical counties.
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/29/2015 04:00 PM
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. –Red Dirt musician Stoney LaRue will be headlining this years Cherokee Nation Employee Appreciation Day, which honors employees for their hard work throughout the past year. The outdoor free concert is open to the public and is on April 2. It will take place just west of the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex in Tahlequah. The opening act will be the all-Cherokee group, Pumpkin Hollow Band. They will kick off the show at 5:30 p.m. “These Oklahoma musicians have a strong local following and will put on a great show for our community and the entire Cherokee Nation,” said Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “We wanted to show our appreciation to our employees and the community with a night of good music and family fun.” LaRue, who is Texas-born but a longtime Oklahoman, is known for his hits “Down in Flames,” “Feet Don’t Touch the Ground,” “Oklahoma Breakdown” and “One Cord Song.” The crowd can expect to hear his hits and also songs from his new album, “AVIATOR.” “The theme is, essentially, following direction, trusting in yourself and new beginnings,” said LaRue. “I’d say it’s a little combination of rootsy rock, country, folk and whatever else is in the hodge podge, and separate as much of the pride and ego from it, and put it in a format that’s easy to listen to.” CN citizens Rod Buckhorn, Doo Reese, Kirk Reese and Spider Stopp named the band in honor of their birthplace, Pumpkin Hollow. The country and red dirt genre band has opened for Luke Bryan, Mark Chesnutt, Brantley Gilbert and Tracy Lawrence. According to a CN press release, no alcohol, tobacco or ice chests are permitted on the premises. Food vendors will be on site and shuttles available for parking. Bringing lawn chairs and blankets to sit on is encouraged. The Cherokee Nation W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex is located at 17675 S. Muskogee Ave.
BY STAFF REPORTS
03/29/2015 12:00 PM
OOLOGAH, Okla. –The Indian Women’s Pocahontas Club is having its ninth annual Old Fashioned Picnic at 10:30 a.m. on May 16 at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch. The event is free to the public but a $10 food donation is suggested to help raise funds for the Indian Women’s Pocahontas Cub Higher Education Scholarship fund. It is suggested to bring a lawn chair to the event. The event will include a hog fry, live music, an auction, Cherokee marbles, corn stalk shoots and hatchet throwing. Cherokee Nation Registration will also be set up at the event getting information for CN photo ID cards. Principal Chief Bill John Baker will be an honored guest at the event. Cherokee Nation Businesses and the Oklahoma Pork Council are sponsoring the event. For more information, call Debra West at 918-760-0813 or Ollie Starr at 918-760-7499 or visit <a href="http://www.iwpclub.org" target="_blank">www.iwpclub.org</a>.