Democrats Seek To Limit Gov. Stitt's Health Care Authority Appointment Powers

Tuesday, September 14th 2021, 7:38 pm
By: Storme Jones

Oklahoma Democrats proposed legislation they said will rein Gov. Kevin Stitt's authority over SoonerCare.

The move comes after Stitt was criticized for removing the only two physicians from the Oklahoma Health Care Authority Board. Democrats said their new proposal would have stopped that.

“Governor Stitt, in a move driven by political ideology not health outcomes dismissed the only two physicians from the Oklahoma Healthcare Authority Board,” Rep. Monroe Nichols, D-Tulsa, said.

With no explanation, only thanking Dr. Jean Hausheer and Dr. Laura Shamblin for their service, Stitt replaced two of his five appointees on the board.

The speaker of the house and Senate president pro tem each get two appointees.

The removals came after the board voted 7-to-1 to hold up rules to enact the partial privatization of SoonerCare.

In a statement, the Oklahoma Health Care Authority criticized their own governing board’s action.

“We are disappointed several board members chose to disregard the public advice of the agency and board’s legal counsel, causing the agency to be out of compliance with current law and recent Oklahoma Supreme Court decision (2021 OK 30),” Melissa Richey said.

Democrats said their HB 2971 would rein in the governor's hiring and firing authority on the board.

“Once the governor appointed somebody, that person would actually have the same term of office that the governor has,” Nichols said. “He would not have been able to remove somebody until he was reelected.”

It would also require two appointees over the $8 billion agency be on Medicaid and at least one appointee must be licensed to practice medicine.

A spokeswoman for Stitt pushed back against the proposal announced Tuesday.

“Governor Stitt’s agency reforms, which were overwhelmingly passed by the Legislature in 2019, continue delivering positive outcomes for Oklahomans while holding state agencies accountable. Democrats' push to undo this progress is an out-of-touch political stunt designed to score points with special interest groups and unelected bureaucrats,” Carly Atchison said in a statement.