“Red (ink) tape: Health bureaucracies hampered by fraud” (Our Views, Dec. 6) paints Medicare, Medicaid and Oklahoma providers with a broad brush. As chairman of the board for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, the state’s Medicaid agency, I’d like to clear up some misconceptions. Oklahoma Medicaid has achieved one of the lowest payment error rates in the nation at 1.24 percent. The national average is approximately 8 percent. We combat fraud beginning when a provider signs a contract with us and continuing as we provide constant education about billing and closely review claims.
Program integrity is first and foremost for us. Our claims-processing system uses technology that looks for discrep- ancies and wrongful billing. The staff performs data analytics searching for outliers from normal claims patterns, thus triggering audits. Auditors visit providers regularly. The medical staff conducts record reviews looking for irregular billing practices.
Nearly 39,000 providers have contracted with Oklahoma Medicaid. As with any industry, some will try to game the system. We shouldn’t let a few bad providers cast a pall over the professional work that the majority of these providers perform on a daily basis. The agency takes very seriously the responsibility of being entrusted with taxpayer dollars. We will continue to use technology and manpower to make sure those dollars are spent appropriately.
Ed McFall, Porum
Sam Bowman (Your Views, Dec. 9) asks who is Gov. Mary Fallin listening to and why. I’m not sure she’s listening to anyone. Common sense tells her that taxpayers can’t be further and continuously burdened by expensive gifts rendered by their own so-called government to the benefit of those who don’t contribute, particularly when the costs of those gifts are funded not with cash but with a promissory note signed on behalf of me, a taxpayer, a funder of government!
This has nothing to do with whether one is compassionate or not and everything to do with fiscal responsibility. Compassion dictates that we be fiscally responsible so we’re around to be compassionate. And the argument of “Everyone else is doing it!” is no argument either. Because other states are jumping off the “fiscal cliff” doesn’t make it right and doesn’t mean Oklahoma should follow them over the edge. Thank goodness for common-sense Oklahoma leadership.
Brent Lowell, Bethany
State-level exchange taxed
“Tax on health insurance just another law surprise” (The Washington Examiner, Dec. 7), decrying the “secret” federal 3.5 percent premium tax on health insurance premiums paid to the federal health Iisurance exchange, fails to note one important point. Insurance is regulated at the state level and premiums paid to a state exchange are taxed, at 6 percent in Oklahoma’s case, with the revenue going to the general fund. For this and any number of reasons, Oklahoma would be better served had Gov. Mary Fallin implemented the state-level exchange. Like it or not, the battle about Obamacare is over. It’s time to make the most of it and exercise what little control is given to the states.
Bill Livermon, Oklahoma City
Republicans in Congress should think back to the old Popeye cartoons. Wimpy always promised to “pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” Democrats are promising “spending cuts next year for a tax hike today.” Unfortunately, Republicans have fallen for that promise several times over the years. They’ve agreed to compromises, only to have the Democrats renege on their promises.
It’s time for the Republicans to take a stand and demand spending cuts now, especially for all those programs Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Muskogee, has identified as wasteful. It’s ridiculous to continue borrowing money that future generations must repay, to fund programs not constitutionally a part of the federal government’s authority.
Mary Adkison, Bethany
Who will save us?
Former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson used to say, “Leave the country better for the following generations.” We’re failing. On our watch, baby boomers (led by our self-serving politicians) have squandered our inheritance, emptied the Social Security trust, cheapened the dollar, established unfunded government pensions and entitlements, mortgaged the future of our children and grandchildren, and threatened the economic well-being of future Americans. We seem to lack the courage to fix it.
It matters little who wins elections. Democrats and Republicans write checks they can’t cover. They borrow money on the next generation’s credit cards. These politicians, mostly old folks, are lobbied by old folks, for the special interests of old folks running banks, unions, hospitals, universities and businesses. Their checks tend to help special interests and politicians’ re-elections, not the nation.
Politics is normally seen as right vs. left, conservative vs. progressive, rich vs. poor. Now, it’ll become young vs. old. It seems obvious that old folks can’t or won’t stand in front of this runaway train. They’re either driving it or are passengers in the club car. But there’s a constituency that should have the motivation, and does have the potential voting power, to save us from ourselves. It’s the next generations — our children and grandchildren. They need to organize. Listen and join in as Simpson implores young folk to get involved or, “These old coots will clean out the Treasury before you get there.”
Tom O’Neill, Edmond
Emerson boosts students
Regarding “Work to go on despite school’s failing grade” (News, Dec. 2): The warmth and compassion Principal Sherry Kishore, the faculty and staff at Emerson High School feel for their students doesn’t just happen on occasion, but on a daily basis. Given their home environment, for a majority of those students the outpouring of that compassion is the only positive they encounter during the day. If hope were a gradable subject, Emerson would easily attain an A-plus! Hope is what Emerson instills in its students. With hope, one can dream, as do the young man who walks to Emerson every day in pursuit of his high school diploma and the young mother trying to concentrate on her studies while raising a child and eventually graduating, no matter if the culmination of her goal takes longer than the norm.
The lack of transportation, teenage pregnancy and other hardships aren’t even acknowledged, it seems, by the state Department of Education when it comes to the classification of schools. It’s a one-size-fits-all without any consideration for any of the above. I hope these parameters will be adequately addressed in the future.
Mark L. Reed, Newcastle
When I get a “holiday” card instead of a Christmas card, I respond with a Christmas card. For me, a Catholic, the “holiday” is Christmas. A “holiday” card doesn’t mean anything to a Christian. When I was growing up, my family would celebrate Christmas by first going to Midnight Mass. We always remembered the “reason for the season.”
Atheists, the ACLU and secularists want to do away with Christmas; some Christians are unwittingly falling into the trap by promoting “holiday” cards or wishing everyone a “Happy Holiday!” What holiday are they celebrating?
Tom Waken, Oklahoma City
Not a viable solution
I disagree with Jim McLaughlin (Your Views, Dec. 9). Replacing our tax system with a flat tax isn’t that easy. Our current tax system applies a tax rate to a taxable amount. Our problems in that system are the definition and determination of that taxable amount. My first concern is with the definition of goods and the statement that medicine and food would be exempted. As time would progress, additional exemptions would be necessary and then you don’t have an easy-to-administer flat tax system any longer. My second concern would be how you would tax buying a desk from your brother-in-law versus a retail business. All the unemployed IRS employees would now work for the state sales tax agency tracking down the Craigslist transactions.
Current taxation is based on years of litigation, which establishes how the game is played. To start over with a new system would throw that foundation out and start over. And the first case would be trying to determine what taxable goods really are! I agree that the system is broken, but a general national sales tax isn’t a viable solution.
Leslie C. Vaughn, Oklahoma City
Taxing savers twice
Jim McLaughlin (Your Views, Dec. 9) tells us that under the fair tax, “The fairness revolves around the fact that everyone would pay a flat sales tax on the goods they buy, minus food and medicine.” The problem is that this plan will tax savers twice. If you have $1,000 in a savings account, you paid income tax when you earned it, and you’re taxed on the interest every year. Under the “fair tax,” you’ll be taxed again when you draw it out to spend it. How’s that fair?
Jo Jones, Edmond
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