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Editorial Roundup: Recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers

October 2, 2018

Here are excerpts from recent editorials in Oklahoma newspapers:

Tulsa World. Oct. 2, 2018.

— Oklahoma’s high uninsured rate impacts everyone, including those who have insurance

Oklahoma has the second-highest rate of residents without health care coverage in the nation, the U.S. Census Bureau says.

An estimated 14.2 percent of the state population did not have health insurance in 2017, up from 13.8 percent the previous year.

That’s more than a half million of our neighbors without proper coverage.

Only Texas had a higher uninsured rate, 17.3 percent.

The sad statistics come with an asterisk of sorts. Because Indian Health Service coverage isn’t comprehensive, the Census Bureau counts people who only have IHS coverage as uninsured. That would include an unknown number of Oklahomans, but probably a lot.

But even if you discount the Census statistic and the ranking modestly because of the IHS numbers, it’s not really debatable that too few Oklahomans have proper medical insurance. If you want confirmation, look at the huge piles of unreimbursed medical expenses Oklahoma hospitals accumulate every year.

Like most states, Oklahoma’s coverage rate improved dramatically after the Affordable Care Act brought guaranteed coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, expanded eligibility for adult children on their parents’ insurance and federally funded relief for low- and middle-income Americans through electronic marketplaces. Oklahoma’s uninsured rate had been 17.7 percent prior to “Obamacare.”

But the state could and should have done more. Arkansas’ uninsured rate, 16 percent before the Affordable Care Act, is now 7.9 percent. Unlike Oklahoma, Arkansas accepted “Obamacare” funding for Medicaid expansion for indigent residents, which not only brought coverage to thousands, but also resulted in sufficient economic growth to underwrite a tax cut.

Gov. Mary Fallin initially rejected Medicaid expansion and subsequently embraced a variation on the idea, but couldn’t get the Legislature to go along with it.

This is not just a case of being our brothers’ keepers, although that argument certainly applies. Reducing the state’s uninsured rate increases productivity and tax revenue; it improves public health, makes rural hospitals more financially viable and makes urban hospitals more efficient. Everyone has a stake in improving this situation.

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The Oklahoman. Oct. 2, 2018.

— Might veil one day be lifted from Supreme Court?

Provided he makes it through the Senate confirmation process, Judge Brett Kavanaugh will advance to the U.S. Supreme Court where he’ll return to a public life of relative anonymity. This is because the court’s proceedings are seen only by those inside the courtroom.

The high court, which began a new term Monday, does not allow cameras in the chamber. Written transcripts of proceedings are released every day, and the court provides audio recordings of arguments — each Friday.

Will that veil ever be lifted? The president of the American Bar Association is among those who believe it should be.

In a commentary for InsideSources.com, ABA president Bob Carlson argues that our democracy “depends on public understanding and trust of our institutions, including our courts” but that members of the public — unless they’re in the courtroom in Washington, D.C. — can only follow the high court indirectly.

The debate over televising the court has been around for years. In 2005, Carlson noted, the late Justice Antonin Scalia voiced concerns about how the media would use video of the court, producing snippets that “will be uncharacteristic of what the court does.” Just last year, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said she had concerns about justices potentially playing to the cameras.

Carlson noted that while most states have allowed video cameras for years, most federal courts ban them. An exception is the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which has provided video of oral arguments since 2010.

In Oklahoma, the decision on whether to allow cameras in court during civil trials is left to district court judges, who generally refrain. However, a Cleveland County judge decided recently that news cameras will be permitted to cover the state’s 2019 trial against pharmaceutical companies.

Oklahomans also have been provided the chance, on occasion, to follow Oklahoma Supreme Court proceedings online.

In August 2017, the court livestreamed arguments regarding a cigarette “fee” that had been approved by the Legislature that year. The court ultimately struck down the fee, saying it was a tax.

Later that year, the court streamed arguments challenging the constitutionality of a law involving driving under the influence and loss of a person’s driver’s license. Three times in 2018 the court has made arguments available online, including the challenge to a referendum petition that sought to repeal the funding mechanism for a teacher pay raise.

Each of these cases, unlike many that wind up before the court, were deemed by Chief Justice Douglas Combs to have statewide interest and impact. Jari Askins, chief administrative officer of the state’s court system, said the online access also is a way to show that the court is “not just hiding behind green curtains somewhere making decisions.”

The more transparency, the better. As Carlson noted, making this change with the U.S. Supreme Court “would enhance respect for the judiciary and the rule of law at a time when both are subject to frequent attacks.” It’s a solid argument. Perhaps one day the court will be swayed by it.

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Enid News & Eagle. Oct. 2, 2018.

— Flu vaccine could keep you away from doctor, hospital

As the temperatures drop, it’s time to start thinking of getting your annual influenza vaccination.

The Garfield County Health Department, 2501 Mercer, began offering free influenza vaccinations Monday. Most insurance covers flu vaccinations. Otherwise, the shot costs under $40 in most cases.

Generally speaking, flu vaccination is recommended each year for everyone six months of age and older.

There is less opportunity for flu to spread in families, schools and communities when more people are vaccinated against the flu.

The flu vaccine is formulated each year to keep up with flu viruses as they often change. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting vaccinated before the flu starts spreading in your community. After vaccination, it takes around two weeks for flu-protecting antibodies to develop in the body.

The 2017-18 flu season had the highest death toll in at least four decades. An estimated 80,000 Americans died of influenza and complications last year, according to the CDC.

The CDC recommends the following measures to prevent the flu: Avoid close contact, stay home when you are sick, cover your mouth and nose, clean your hands, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth and practice other good health habits.

Prevention could keep you out of the doctor’s office or hospital.

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