It's disappointing to see our governor axe political appointees who fail to follow through on a plan likely to collapse under the scrutiny of the courts.
Gov. Kevin Stitt canned the two only physicians serving on the Oklahoma Health Care Authority's governing board after opposing his plan to outsource the state's expanded Medicaid program. The physicians cast two of the seven votes to table the advancement of rules to legislation that would have put guardrails on the governor's plan to outsource management of the state's Medicaid program.
There is some disagreement about the validity of Senate Bill 131 after the Oklahoma Supreme Court invalidated SoonerSelect, a managed care program created by OHCA and favored by Stitt. The court determined the OHCA failed to follow state law that requires competitive bids for the contracts awarded in January worth $2.1 billion.
Drs. Jean Hausheer and Laura Shamblin were appointed to OHCA's governing board in 2019, after the Oklahoma Legislature granted the executive branch broader appointment authority to appoint board members and directors at five state agencies. It was described by some as "a move to make government ... more responsive."
Gov. Stitt campaigned on the promise to reform state agencies that had become fiefdoms over the years and unresponsive to the needs of Oklahomans. He fulfilled that promise and set out afterward undertaking "the hard work" it takes "to hire the right people" to oversee the agencies that serve Oklahomans.
While the governor has the discretion to appoint a certain number of people to certain boards or commissions, he should not expect his appointees to rubber-stamp his political agenda. His decision to take retaliatory action against the only physicians on a board that oversees an agency with $2 billion to serve Oklahoma's most vulnerable population is disturbing, disappointing and sends the wrong message.
Stitt's zeal for reform at state agencies pulled the pendulum too far in the other direction. State agencies must be responsive to the needs of Oklahomans, not to the needs of their governor and his donors.