Coleman addresses Medicaid, education

Robert Smith rsmith@pawhuskajournalcapital.com
Bill Coleman

State Sen. Bill Coleman, R-Ponca City, said Dec. 27 he hopes the Oklahoma State Legislature can address the possible expansion of Medicaid in the legislative session slated to begin in early February.

Coleman, who will be a freshman lawmaker, has been appointed to the Health and Human Services Committee in the Senate, as well as the Appropriations Subcommittee for Health and Human Services.

He said there is interest among legislators in studying the “hybrid” approaches to Medicaid expansion that some states have developed.

“We haven’t actually gotten into the weeds on that,” Coleman said, clarifying that discussions have not addressed the subject at a detailed level. He said the talk is still “at 30,000 feet,” as it were.

Coleman voiced a particular interest in anything that will help residents of small-town and rural areas.

For those interested in the subject, Iowa and Arkansas are among states that have developed so-called hybrid models for Medicaid expansion.

Coleman also commented briefly on his hopes for legislative efforts to support Oklahoma’s education programs. Coleman’s wife, Helen, is a former teacher, and the new senator ran in considerable measure on his support for public education. He is filling the District 10 seat formerly held by Sen. Eddie Fields, R-Wynona.

“We want to make sure that the money is being spent correctly and the focus is on the student in the classroom,” Coleman said regarding education. He said that he supports continuing the investment the state has already made in education programs.

Coleman also indicated he is optimistic about the Legislature being willing to work on policy solutions in a relatively non-partisan manner in the 2019 regular session.

Coleman, a graduate of Pawhuska High School, was sworn in as a senator during a ceremony in mid-November.

“I want to sincerely thank the citizens of District 10 for giving me the opportunity to represent them and be their voice at our state Capitol,” Coleman said in a news release issued at the time. “I’m looking forward to getting to work to help boost tourism around the state and expand our economy to help provide more resources for our classrooms and teachers as well as other core state services.”

In early December, committee assignments were announced and Coleman learned he will serve on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services as well as the Health and Human Services, Transportation and General Government committees.

“Improving access to affordable, quality health care and mental health care services will have a tremendous impact on our citizens and economy,” Coleman said in response to the committee assignments. “As our state grows, we must also continue working to better our transportation system not only for private citizens’ daily commutes but for our businesses and tourism. I’m ready to get to work.”

The Legislature will convene for Organizational Day on Tuesday, Jan. 8 and the 2019 regular session will begin on Monday, Feb. 4.

Coleman also received a warm endorsement from Sen. Fields, whom he is succeeding.

“I want to give a big congratulations to my successor, Sen. Bill Coleman,” Fields said in a column he wrote, marking the completion of his Senate service. “He’s going to do a great job for our district.”

Fields said his assistant, Cindy Stevens, will be staying on to serve with Coleman.

“As many of you can attest to, she has been a tremendous asset to the district and will continue to be so,” Fields said. “With the office renovations, he’ll have a different office number but the phone number will remain the same and you can also reach Cindy at stevensc@oksenate.gov.”

“Sen. Coleman will also be continuing the email newsletter,” Fields said. “If you’re currently receiving that, you’ll also get his in the next few weeks. If you’re not on the email list, please contact Cindy and she will be happy to add you.”