Dems Accuse Stitt Of Playing Politics With Health Care Authority Board Removals, Propose Legislation

Sep 15, 2021

Democratic members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Tuesday announced proposed legislation to limit certain powers of the governor related to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, following Gov. Kevin Stitt's abrupt and still-unexplained removal of the only two physicians on its governing board earlier this month.

"This bill is about checks and balances, and it's about health outcomes," said Rep. Monroe Nichols (D-Tulsa) at a Tuesday press conference at the state capitol. "My Republican colleagues gave the governor this new power. He abused it. And now we must come together as a legislative body to restore transparency and accountability."

Nichols' proposed legislation includes reverting some powers related to the agency, which oversees the state Medicaid program, from the governor's office to legislators and board members, which he notes was the case before lawmakers voted in 2019 to shift those powers to Stitt. 

"It is one thing to have that responsibility, or the oversight, spread over several of us," said Rep. Forrest Bennett (D-Oklahoma City). "It's another thing entirely to let one person, who's very clearly focused on something else, call the shots."

Stitt's office on Tuesday again declined to answer the emailed question of why the governor removed Drs. Jean Hausheer and Laura Shamblin from the board over Labor Day weekend. The two women had last month joined the majority in a 7-1 vote opposing implementation of Stitt's favored rules for privatization of Medicaid expansion.

Nichols said he had not yet consulted with the Republican majority on whether or not they would support his bill.