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Gov. Kevin Stitt and top aides met several times last year with the lobbyist for WellCare Health Plans as the governor worked on his own proposal to expand insurance coverage in Oklahoma.
Stitt and two of his top aides had lunch with Elizabeth Gianini on Dec. 17. It was the third meeting of the month between Gianini and Stitt staff members, according to records filed by Gianini.
Gianini met with the governor’s staff at least seven times since August, with Stitt attending three of them.
Others attending the meetings were Michael Junk, Stitt’s chief of staff, and Samantha Davidson, Stitt’s policy director, and Secretary of State Mike Rogers. Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Glen Mulready also attended a dinner with Gianini in December.
Donelle Harder, a spokeswoman for Stitt, provided no details about the meetings or what role WellCare may play in Stitt’s health care plan. WellCare develops managed care plans for entitlement programs such as Medicaid.
“The governor and his staff have taken numerous meetings with various health care businesses, industry experts and medical professionals to put together a comprehensive health care reform plan for Oklahoma,” Harder said.
Stitt has expressed opposition to the state ballot question to expand Medicaid to an estimated 200,000 more low-income residents. Medicaid is a federal-state health insurance program administered by states.
The Affordable Care Act included full federal funding at first to expand Medicaid to more low-income Americans. The federal share is now at 90% for states that expand eligibility to adults and children with income below 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Oklahoma, because of Republican opposition, is one 19 states that has never accepted the money.
Stitt, a Republican who has been in office for a year, has vowed to develop his own plan to increase coverage in Oklahoma, which has an uninsured rate of 14%, the second highest in the nation behind Texas.
Alissa Momberg Lawver, spokeswoman for WellCare, said the company “works to educate governors, legislators and their staff on both sides of the aisle about the value of managed care.”
“Dozens of states across the country have considered Medicaid expansion. No matter what route a state takes, WellCare works with our government partners to deliver value by finding innovative solutions that provide access to high-quality care and help our members live better, healthier lives.”
Stitt said in November that he had met that month with the head of the federal agency that oversees Medicaid. That agency, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, would have to approve any plan to use Medicaid outside of its traditional rules.
Gianini disclosed the meetings with Stitt and his aides in her latest report of lobbying expenditures because she paid for meals at the meetings.
The total expense for the seven meals was $806.
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman’s Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. Casteel covered the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City. From 1990 through 2016, he was the… Read more ›