- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

The Journal Record. June 26, 2017.

Businesspeople don’t like to finish last. That’s part of the DNA, the Myers-Briggs profile, the colors assessment, the DISC results. Running a business requires top-of-the-pack drive.

Who better to lead Oklahoma out of last place?

That’s the premise of the State Chamber’s OK2030 initiative; the business community will take the reins, do the research, formulate the plan, and get Oklahoma into the winner’s circle instead of the state’s perpetual position in the participation ribbon line just a step in front of Mississippi.

The state is 27th in education, middle of the pack, worthy of a shoulder shrug but not a celebration. Oklahoma is an appalling 45th in health rankings, driven by the rates of obesity, physical inactivity, smoking, drug deaths, occupational deaths, and children living in poverty. Three states spend less per capita to help the mentally ill. The state is ninth highest in teen pregnancy, with 80 out of every 1,000 women age 15-19 conceiving. In New Hampshire, the rate is 33 per 1,000. Only Louisiana imprisons a larger percentage of its residents, and no state locks up more women.

For nearly a decade, Oklahoma’s lawmakers have drafted reams of legislation aimed at advancing donor interests and pacifying fringe voters. Their fantastic aggregate failure offers no reassurance that Oklahoma will ever have bragging rights about anything more significant than college football. The business community has for the most part offered reasonable platforms to advance the state: criminal justice reform, teacher pay raises, elimination of failed incentives, investment in workforce development and infrastructure, an absence of black-eye social legislation that deters business growth.

The State Chamber started with in-depth interviews of business leaders to gather their perceptions of what’s wrong and ideas about how to fix the problems. That data will be converted to a plan that will require money to implement - about $5 million by the chamber’s estimate. That money will pay to help reasonable candidates attain elected positions. It will pay to draft legislation. It will pay to collect petition signatures when constitutional changes need to be on the ballot.

Elected officials have failed to lift Oklahoma from the bottom of the lists. Although there’s no guarantee the business community can propel the state to the top rung, the ingrained desire to finish at the top has to give Oklahoma a better chance than another crop of leaderless misfits concerned with all the wrong issues.

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Tulsa World. June 27, 2017.

Things are looking rocky for the U.S. Senate’s initial effort to repeal and replace “Obamacare.”

At least five Republican senators have spoken out against the original proposal recently released after weeks of secret negotiations, and several others have said they have questions about the scheme. Oklahoma Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford remain unconvinced.

Complicating the calculus for GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is that his members’ issues with the proposal are at odds with each other. For one faction, including Rand Paul of Kentucky, the bill doesn’t eliminate Obamacare features with sufficient rigor, but for other Republicans, such as Nevada’s Dean Heller, the problem is that the elimination of Affordable Care Act provisions, especially Medicaid expansion funding, is too harsh.

Appeasing one side of the divide loses support on the other, and with only 52 GOP senators and a united Democratic opposition, McConnell only has a handful of votes with which to play.

McConnell has said he’s determined to have a vote on the issue soon. He might come up with the political magic to hold his caucus together, but there is a better solution.

Instead of trying to replace Obamacare in the same partisan fashion that it was created, why not find a bipartisan way to reform it with some of those 48 votes on the other side of the aisle?

Not to get too utopian on the issue, but perhaps part of that solution could actually deal with the cost of health services, instead of the constant battle over health care coverage.

The basics of compromise are in place. The Democrats know there is plenty to fix in Obamacare and should know that there’s an air of truth to the president’s comments that the ACA’s costs aren’t sustainable.

The solution is to work together with an eye toward solving problems instead of worrying about who gets credit for the solution. That’s utopian vision, indeed. The sort of desperation compromise move that could come from an insolvable political situation, possibly like the one facing McConnell.

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The Oklahoman. June 27, 2017.

The U.S. Senate has released its proposal to overhaul the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare. The product of much compromise, the plan doesn’t represent the pure, undiluted free-market reforms many conservatives would wish. But it at least moves the ball the right direction.

If anyone thinks otherwise, the hysterical response of Democrats should erase any doubt. Take Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who tweeted, “I’ve read the Republican ‘health care’ bill. This is blood money. They’re paying for tax cuts with American lives.”

The basic argument of Warren and others accusing Republicans of killing people is that some people might lose insurance coverage if these reforms go into effect. Therefore, Republicans are to blame for the death of anyone who loses insurance coverage and subsequently dies.

That argument has many obvious flaws. For one thing, people with health problems who have insurance still die every year.

But even if you accept Warren’s premise, there’s still a problem for Democrats: People are already losing their coverage under the ACA, and have been since day one. There’s a reason “if you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor” is one of the most famous political whoppers of our generation.

The ACA cost many people the affordable insurance policies they previously had and, in many instances, left them with more expensive policies that provided less benefit.

And that’s if those people were lucky. Many insurers are dropping out of ACA exchanges. This has left large portions of several states with no insurance options on exchanges, and many areas have only one insurer offering policies.

Furthermore, it’s not as if there’s a correlation between the ACA’s passage and increased life expectancy, despite what Warren implies. Instead, as The Washington Post reported in December after the National Center for Health Statistics released 2015 figures, “For the first time in more than two decades, life expectancy for Americans declined last year - a troubling development linked to a panoply of worsening health problems in the United States.”

In fairness, the drop in life expectancy wasn’t directly caused by the ACA. But neither were any improvements, as can be seen from the life expectancy figures in years preceding passage of the ACA.

As we’ve noted before, many people who would “lose” coverage under reform exist only on paper. Critics are arguing millions who deliberately forgo insurance today will suddenly seek and obtain it next year unless reform is enacted. That’s a stretch.

In a recent CNN interview, Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City, noted the Congressional Budget Office even claimed a House reform plan would cause 4 million people to lose Medicaid coverage this year, “but never explained how that would be when the House made no changes for 2017 or ‘18.”

There will be winners and losers with the Senate’s health care plan. As with any major proposal, there’s room for debate. The plan has critics on the left and the right.

But critics who claim any coverage loss anywhere equates to “killing” people and is therefore a reason to oppose the Senate bill fail to understand that’s also an argument for repealing the ACA.

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