Governor Kevin Stitt received the final recommendations from the Helping Every Life and Parent (H.E.L.P.) Task Force in a briefing yesterday with Chairwoman Juli Merciez, Secretary Kevin Corbett from the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, Commissioner Keith Reed and Jackie Shawnee, who is also a task force member, from the Oklahoma Department of Health, and interim Director at the Department of Human Services and task force member Samantha Galloway.
“I am impressed and grateful for the HELP Task Force’s dedication and execution of their responsibility to deliver thoughtful recommendations to support Oklahoma families and women before, during, and after childbirth,” said Governor Stitt. “In just six weeks these thought leaders came together, tackled tough issues facing our state, and presented solutions. Our state is better for their service and hard work.”
The task force, which was created by Governor Stitt’s executive order, studied, evaluated, and made recommendations regarding policies, programs, and proposed legislation to support crisis pregnancy centers, make adoption easier, support mothers facing an unplanned pregnancy, and empower nonprofits organizations and local faith communities to support families and mothers before, during and after childbirth.
“Governor Stitt’s HELP Task Force brought together top thought leaders who worked with excellence and expediency to bring forth recommendations that drive change and support mothers, fathers, and families across our state,” said Chairwoman Merciez, BSN, RN MPC, Co-Founder and President of The Cottage, a pregnancy center and residential maternity home. “We offer these recommendations and we stand ready to continue to serve the women, parents and families who seek needed resources.”
Merciez continued: “Areas of focus were not easy tasks to examine and included areas such as expanding and increasing access for women’s healthcare coverage, supporting fatherhood initiatives, and making adoption easier. We believe in saving and changing lives and we believe these recommendations will help women, parents and families across the state.”
Read the final recommendations submitted to the governor here.
Read a summary of the recommendations here.
Among the final recommendations, which were unanimously approved by the task force in September, was for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to expand coverage for SoonerCare members receiving pregnancy and postpartum services. Specifically, two major policy changes were proposed. First to increase Oklahoma’s income threshold for full-scope pregnancy-related benefits from 138% to 205% of the federal poverty level (FPL). Secondly, to provide new mothers in Oklahoma with up to 12 months of continuous postpartum coverage.
These policy changes, which will require approval from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, are fully supported by Governor Stitt.
Stitt said: “I fully support these two recommendations to expand and extend care for new mothers and their babies. Raising the income threshold will allow thousands of additional women in Oklahoma to have access to services that will reduce risk and create opportunities for better health outcomes for both them and their child. Ensuring more women have access to better, longer care is a positive step in the right direction for our state.”