So many stories, so little space...
It didn't attract nearly enough mainstream media attention, but Gov. Mary Fallin, bless her corporatist heart, delivered an incredible present to the poor ol' struggling insurance industry just before Christmas.
As if record profits in recent years weren't enough, big insurance was guaranteed even fatter bottom lines when the governor signed an emergency rule eliminating birth as a qualifying event for individual health insurance coverage.
What does this mean? It means insurance companies don't have to allow a newborn to be enrolled immediately -- they can wait to cover the child until the annual open enrollment period.
According to a statement from the Oklahoma Hospital Association, which strenuously objected to Fallin's action: "Health insurance in the individual market for children between birth and one year of age would simply not be available.
The governor, through a spokesman, claimed companies offering child health insurance policies fled Oklahoma because of the president's health care plan. By signing the emergency rule, she insisted, insurers would be lured back -- and eventually more children would be covered.
There's a scientific term for such specious reasoning: bull*%#!
If you don't think this is about profits, just look at the numbers: In an average Oklahoma week, 1,053 babies are born -- 144 to teen mothers, ages 15-19; 357 are by Cesarean section; 141 are born pre-term; 87 are of low birth-weight and nine babies die before their first birthday.
In other words, some babies enter this world with significant health issues, not all of which are known until after they are born. To be sure, some of these maladies cost the insurers' bottom lines. But denying adequate health care during a baby's critical first year can end up costing society much more. How sad that some children may never achieve their God-given potential because of pure greed.
Fallin's decision elevated the bottom-line demands of insurance companies over the health-care needs of Oklahoma newborns. The governor should hang her head in shame.
Tulsa World of Rednecks?
Speaking of shame, it's difficult to know who ought to be more embarrassed by the recent dust-up over Sen. Jim Inhofe's homophobic remarks to the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce: Inhofe, the Chamber or the Tulsa World.
Inhofe -- presumably with a straight face -- insists he simply was addressing constituent concerns when he assured the Chamber audience that repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell hadn't led to legalizing bestiality.
And if some of his redneck, ignorant constituents don't, then he should be a real leader and set the record straight, individually and privately -- not by uttering such inanities in public.
It may well have been an innocent comment, but such claims are hard to swallow when you consider Inhofe has built a long electoral career by successfully invoking the three G's -- God, guns and gays.
Even more preposterous is the Tulsa World's editorial apologia on behalf of Inhofe.
The senator has not earned the benefit of the doubt in such matters, given that he has proven himself a master at demonizing groups for political advantage.
It's also puzzling that the World would suggest the Chamber had overreacted by issuing a statement that Inhofe's remarks "do not reflect the Chamber's view on diversity and inclusion."
Imagine that -- an organization whose mission is to attract new business, industry, entrepreneurs and workers distancing itself from inflammatory rhetoric that makes its city look parochial, narrow-minded and bigoted.
Oh, the indignity!
Inhofe seems to have forgotten that he works for all taxpayers, whether gay or straight, rich or poor, Christian or otherwise.
The Chamber never should have apologized for clarifying that its core values include "diversity and inclusion." Instead, it should have been the one lifting a finger to, uh, salute Inhofe.
Sponge of Gall
It's not uncommon for state legislators to rail against government waste. It's also not uncommon for them to be oblivious to their own misuse of government resources.
Case in point: Two south Oklahoma City Republicans, Sen. Ralph Shortey and Rep. Mike Reynolds, recently employed the state Senate media staff to distribute a news release that had nothing to do with enlightening their constituents on an important public policy issue.
It was a purely political screed that they should have paid for themselves.
Shortey and Reynolds clearly can't abide the fact that Oklahoma County's district attorney, David Prater, is prosecuting Rep. Randy Terrill, R-Moore, and former state Sen. Debbe Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City, on bribery charges.
Terrill allegedly tried to engineer a high-paying position at the state Medical Examiner's Office for Leftwich in exchange for her not seeking re-election in 2010 -- paving the way for Terrill's House colleague, Rep. Mike Christian, to seek an open Senate seat.
So, Shortey and Reynolds issued a news release Dec. 14 through the Senate Media office that expressed concern that nationally-syndicated radio talk show host Michael Savage could be prosecuted in Oklahoma County for offering $1 million to Newt Gingrich to drop out of the Republican presidential race.
"...Shortey said the offer appears to satisfy the District Attorney's definition of bribing a candidate who already filed for office in Oklahoma County to withdraw from that contest.
"... Reynolds said it would, of course, be ridiculous to file charges against Savage, but considering the District Attorney's current arbitrary actions it is certainly a real possibility. He also suggested a closer examination of a recent change of leadership at the Grand River Dam Authority may be needed."
Seriously? These two self-appointed -- not to mention self-righteous -- watchdogs of the taxpayers' money are spending the taxpayers' money sending out this sort of tripe?
Someone who can talk slowly enough should explain i-r-o-n-y and h-y-p-o-c-r-i-s-y to these loons.
--Arnold Hamilton is editor of The Oklahoma Observer; www.okobserver.net
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