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Statewide News

OKLAHOMA CITY (Jan. 18, 2017) – The number of students enrolled in Oklahoma public schools continued to rise in 2016, increasing by more than 1,000 from the previous year.

A total of 693,710 students were enrolled in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade at the start of the school year, an increase of 1,040 over the 2015 total of 692,670 and 27,560 more than in 2011.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister said the increase in enrollment does not come as a surprise.

“Oklahoma schools are educating more students than ever before. Over the past decade, student enrollment has risen steadily, as have funding challenges. We must do everything we can to maximize our resources in order to serve a growing and increasingly diverse group of Oklahoma schoolchildren,” Hofmeister said.

Districts record enrollment every year on Oct. 1 and report the figures to the Oklahoma State Department of Education. Currently, Oklahoma has 513 public school districts and 1,787 school sites, including 13 charter schools not sponsored by a district.

The list of the 10 largest districts is identical to last year’s, although some changed position within the ranking. This year’s 10 largest districts are:

Oklahoma City Public Schools: 45,757 students
Tulsa Public Schools: 40,459
Edmond Public Schools: 24,403
Moore Public Schools: 24,355
Putnam City Schools: 19,475
Broken Arrow Public Schools: 19,059
Union Public Schools: 15,983
Norman Public Schools: 15,942
Lawton Public Schools: 14,747
Mid-Del Schools: 14,302
Among those districts, Moore had the greatest year-to-year growth, increasing 1.95 percent over 2015, followed by Edmond with an increase of 1.7 percent and Broken Arrow, which jumped 1.01 percent. Putnam City and Oklahoma City grew less than 1 percent. Enrollment decreased up to 2 percent in Union, Norman, Tulsa, Lawton and Mid-Del.

Statewide, student population percentages shifted slightly this year. Most significantly, the percentage of white students dipped below 50 percent in the first time in state history. The number of Native American students also decreased, while the percentage of Hispanic students and students of two or more ethnicities increased. This school year, Oklahoma’s student population is*:

49.36 percent white
16.81 percent Hispanic
13.94 percent Native American or Alaskan Native
8.77 percent black
8.78 percent two or more races
2.34 percent Asian, Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
*Numbers are rounded and may not add up to 100.

To view the spreadsheets with state, district and site totals, visit http://sde.ok.gov/sde/documents/state-student-public-enrollment

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak is offering innovative ideas on health insurance to national leaders. Doak responded today to a request from U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy asking for recommendations as lawmakers move forward with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

“If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, we should take this as an opportunity to do something different, something that works,” Doak said. “Unlike other lines of insurance, the hands of the health insurance industry have been tied by the law, unable to grow and innovate. Now is the time to open the market to see what can be done to provide greater access to affordable health insurance for everyone.”

One of Doak’s suggestions to House Leader McCarthy includes examining the use of microinsurance. This type of insurance focuses on the low-income population and has been successful in countries like India. Doak included research from David M. Dror, Chairman of the Micro Insurance Academy, on how microinsurance could work in the United States.

Other ideas from Doak include:

Permitting sale of insurance across state lines under state regulatory enforcement.
Adopting policies that expand the use of health savings accounts coupled with more affordable, high-deductible health plans.

Allowing states to enact new health reforms at the grade-school level that incorporate physical fitness and nutrition programs to deter preventable illnesses.

Letting states determine the age at which a child can remain on his or her parent’s group health plan.

Enacting legislation that protects consumers from unfair balance billing and surprise billing from individual providers like anesthesiologists, radiologists or medical service companies such as air ambulance and imaging providers.

Allowing states to pursue innovative health care delivery mechanisms including, but not limited to, telemedicine and the expansion of the technologically-based Project ECHO® for rural America.

The Oklahoma Insurance Department and Commissioner Doak will be holding town hall meetings throughout the state to talk with Oklahomans about healthcare reform. The dates and locations of those meetings will be announced at a later date.

You can see the letter Commissioner Doak sent to House Majority Leader McCarthy by clicking here.

About the Oklahoma Insurance Department

The Oklahoma Insurance Department, an agency of the State of Oklahoma, is responsible for the education and protection of the insurance-buying public and for oversight of the insurance industry in the state.

(StatePoint) Do you share a playlist with your poodle? Take a bath with your turtle? It might seem far-fetched, but since many people treat pets like family, they often let them do surprising things.

A recent survey, commissioned by Moen, conducted online by Harris Poll, finds that, among other things, 43 percent of Americans who have ever owned a pet have let their pet lick their plate before washing them. From bathing with pets to letting them sit at the dinner table, pet owners do peculiar things.

“Almost all of us have had at least one furry friend in our lifetime,” says Andrea Maher, senior marketing communications specialist, Moen. “What’s different about today’s pets, however, is that we truly treat them like family. Sometimes, even better.”

To make pets feel like someone is with them at all times, some people leave the TV on for them. And some do a bit more. Indeed, the average amount Americans who have ever owned a pet spend on their pet per month is $55, outside of medical expenses.

“We’ve heard from customers who have installed Pot Filler faucets to fill dog water bowls, those who’ve created pet bathing stations with our powerful handshowers, and even some who have bathtubs dedicated solely to washing pets,” adds Maher. “It’s no longer a ‘man’s world’ these days. It’s a ‘pet’s world,’ and we’re just living in it.”

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Monday, 02 January 2017 18:58

Tips for traveling with your pets

STILLWATER, Okla. – For many families, traveling is a big part of the holiday season. It takes some planning ahead to ensure everything goes smoothly.

For pet owners, whether traveling with your pet or boarding it while you are out of town, planning ahead is essential.PetTravel

Dr. Elisabeth Giedt, director of Continuing Education, Extension and Community Engagement at the Center for Veterinary Health Sciences at Oklahoma State University, said if you plan to travel with your pet, following these tips will help make the trip less stressful for you and your pet.

“Many people may not realize it, but interstate and international travel regulations require your pet have a health certificate. Whether you’re traveling by car, train or air, be sure to check with your veterinarian about these regulations,” Giedt said. “Your veterinarian will have information about the regulations of all the states you may be traveling through.”

When it comes to traveling by car, drivers and passengers do not think twice about buckling up for safety measures. This same train of thought is needed for the safety of your pet.

Giedt said using a proper restraint such as a secure harness or carrier placed clear of the vehicle’s airbags, is a must. She also pointed out your pets should never be transported in the bed of a truck. Everyone knows dogs love to put their faces in the wind while riding in a vehicle, but keep in mind a bump in the road or an accident can cause the animal to be thrown from the vehicle.

“While pet owners realize their furry friends shouldn’t be left in a vehicle in the heat of the summer, reality is they should never be left in a vehicle in any weather,” she said. “If your holiday road trip requires an overnight stay at a hotel, call ahead and make a reservation at a place that is pet friendly. Life is much easier when you crate train your pets. When out of town at a hotel or visiting relatives, the crate becomes a home-away-from-home for your pet.”

For those traveling by air and who are considering taking their pets with them, consult your veterinarian first. Air travel can put some pets at risk, especially short-nosed dogs.

“Our pets are important members of our family, so it’s important to know all of the rules and regulations of air travel before arriving at the airport,” she said. “Call the airline well in advance of your planned air travel to see what their restrictions may be regarding animal breed, as well as health, kennel and weather requirements.”

No matter what transportation method you choose for holiday travel, be sure to pack all essentials for your pet, just as you do for yourself. Include your pet’s food and any medications, as well as copies of medical records, first aid supplies and a couple of favorite toys.

Giedt said it always is a good idea to have a recent photograph of your pet available should the animal get lost during your travels. Take a picture of you with your pet to help confirm ownership.

“For those who may not have the option or desire to take their pet on a holiday trip, finding a reputable kennel is a must. For some owners, getting home care is even better since the pet sitter can look after the house, as well as your pets,” she said. “If that’s not an option, get recommendations from your pet-owner friends and family to see what area boarding kennel they use. If possible, visit the kennel before making a reservation for your pet. Ask to see the kennel’s license or certificate showing the kennel meets mandated standards.”

As your tour the facility, check to see if it looks and smells clean. Ask the staff questions about how they care for the animals and see if outdoor runs and exercise areas are protected from the wind, rain and snow. Something else to consider is if the kennel provides bedding or if you need to bring your own.

The kennel will most likely require your pet’s up-to-date veterinary records before allowing the animal to stay. The facility also may require the vaccine for canine kennel cough. Be sure to ask about bringing your pet’s own food. Some kennels offer a variety of services such as grooming, training and bathing, but keep in mind these services will come at a price.

“Traveling during the holidays can be stressful, but knowing your pet is being well taken care of can help ease your stress level of leaving your pet behind,” Giedt said

OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today announced a goal to increase post-secondary education and training attainment for Oklahomans. The goal, named Launch Oklahoma, is for 70 percent of Oklahoma’s residents, age 25-64, to complete a postsecondary degree, certificate or credential by the year 2025. About 40 percent of the state’s residents now have that level of education or training.*

“Projections show that in 2025, 77 percent of the state’s new labor market will require greater than a high school diploma, highlighting the critical need for higher education,” said Fallin, who authorized Launch Oklahoma in Executive Order 2016-41. “The workplace is changing rapidly with the growth of technology, and it is vital that today’s students possess the skills to meet this reality. Launch Oklahoma will help ensure Oklahoma has enough workers with the right skills to enter and succeed in the workforce. In return, Oklahoma will succeed.”

Launch Oklahoma was developed as a result of recommendations by the Oklahoma Works Leadership Team, led by Secretary of Education and Workforce Development Natalie Shirley. The team includes representatives from higher education, CareerTech, the state Department of Education, the Commerce Department, the Office of Workforce Development, and the Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative.

“The state is facing a critical gap between the skills of the current workforce and the skills that are needed to fill vital jobs,” Shirley said. “Launch Oklahoma will address this issue by encouraging youth to seek postsecondary education and training, and by helping Oklahomans who have left the education system to get back in and upskill. Through these efforts, Oklahomans will have the opportunity to get the higher wage jobs that are critical to our economy.”

The statewide goal to increase the overall postsecondary educational attainment of Oklahoma’s workforce from 40 percent to 70 percent means nearly 600,000 more workers will need a postsecondary degree, certificate or other high-quality credential in just eight years. The need for this goal is outlined in a 2016 research study of Oklahomans who have neither started nor completed postsecondary education. The study, commissioned by the Oklahoma Office of Workforce Development and paid for with funds from the U.S. Department of Labor, will be released next month. Among other findings, the report revealed that students and parents/guardians need more evidence of the importance of a postsecondary certificate or degree.

“The state of Oklahoma must employ a globally competitive workforce to attract companies with high wages to increase the wealth and quality of life for all Oklahomans,” Fallin said. “To meet this challenge, I created Launch Oklahoma to build upon my existing Oklahoma Works initiative. By aiming for this ambitious postsecondary education attainment goal of 70 percent by 2025, we will put Oklahoma on the path to meet labor demands, recruit new and grow current businesses, and increase the opportunity for all Oklahomans to achieve the American Dream.”

To meet this goal, state agencies, educators, businesses and workforce partners will collaborate during the next several months to create a strategic plan to increase overall educational attainment. This plan will be due to the governor by Nov. 1, 2017.

“Governor Fallin’s ambitious Launch Oklahoma goal demonstrates the vital role that postsecondary degrees and credentials play in meeting Oklahoma’s current and future workforce needs,” said Higher Education Chancellor Glen D. Johnson. “Oklahoma’s state system of higher education strongly supports the Oklahoma Works initiative through our college degree and certificate completion efforts in Complete College America. “Our public colleges and universities continually collaborate with business and industry partners to link our academic programs directly to employment needs in high-demand occupations, including critical STEM disciplines.”

“Oklahoma CareerTech programs – such as those in common education 6−12, in technology centers and the skills centers programs in correctional facilities – afford students the opportunity to earn certificates, industry-recognized credentials, career readiness certificates, and college credit toward an associate degree,” said Marcie Mack, director of the state Department of Career and Technology Education. “These opportunities are solutions to both the workforce gap and to meeting the established educational attainment goal. Oklahoma CareerTech empowers middle school, high school and adult students to add workforce value to their education, and our partnerships with business and industry are vital to ensuring workforce needs are met in our state.”

Jennifer Monies, executive director of the Oklahoma Educated Workforce Initiative, said: “Gone are the days where a high school diploma alone will lead to a quality job for most Oklahomans. This ambitious goal will put every Oklahoma student on a trajectory of life-long learning, while encouraging students and adults alike to pursue career training or college no matter their stage in life. I applaud Governor Fallin and the entire Oklahoma Works team for setting high expectations for all Oklahomans with this education attainment goal.”

To learn more about the goal, current research and data, visit the Oklahoma Works website (http://oklahomaworks.gov/attainmentgoal), or follow Oklahoma Works on Twitter and Facebook.

* Data from the Lumina Foundation. For more information, go to http://strongernation.luminafoundation.org/report/2016/#oklahoma

Meals on Wheels team

MEALS ON WHEELS TEAM - Meals on Wheels prepares and delivers hot and nutritious meals to dozens of McAlester-area residents each weekday of the year. From left are McAlester Regional Health Center employees Jennifer Bloxham, program coordinator, Josie Miranda and Rita Webber.

Volunteers across the country join forces every year to help others during the Christmas season. But a local hospital project ensures some of the most vulnerable people in the community are getting a hot, nutritious meal delivered right to their door, five days a week, 12 months a year.

Meals on Wheels has operated out of McAlester Regional Health Center for years, with employees who cook and serve, and drivers who are (usually) volunteers.

“We have one cook, one server and one-part time fill-in delivery person,” said Jennifer Bloxham, program coordinator at MRHC’s Food & Nutrition Services Department. “We’re always looking for more drivers.”

Each weekday before noon, Bloxham and her team prepare several dozen trays of nutritious meals: a meat, potato or other starch, vegetable, slice of bread, salad, milk or juice, and a dessert. The specially constructed covered trays are insulated and designed for travel; each is collected by the next day’s delivery driver to be returned to the hospital for cleaning.

“Those trays aren’t cheap,” Bloxham said, citing a price of nearly $70 each.

As with the food and paid employees, money for the supplies comes not from a federal grant or other subsidy, as with some local programs. Instead, Meals on Wheels is self-funded. Recipients pay a modest $2.35 for each meal.

“The hospital isn’t making any money off of this program,” Bloxham explained. “But it is self-sustaining.”

Mostly, deliveries are to McAlester residents who do not drive. Some are elderly or chronically ill. Others are disabled. For some, the daily arrival of their hot lunch is their sole interaction with another person.

Bloxham’s volunteers spend 30-45 minutes each month on distributions, and their contributions are essential to the program’s success.

“We couldn’t do it without them!” Bloxham said.

To volunteer for deliveries or to inquire about joining the program, contact Meals on Wheels Program Coordinator Jennifer Bloxham at MRHC at 918-421-8091.

MOW Rita Webber

MOW RITA WEBBER – Meals on Wheels Server Rita Webber dishes up a hot meal at McAlester Regional Health Center.

MRHC is a regional 171-bed general acute care public trust hospital serving a region comprised of eight counties in Southeast Oklahoma. With more than 800 employees, the hospital offers a wide array of clinics, and ancillary and outpatient programs.

By John D. Doak, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner

It has been an exciting and challenging year at the Oklahoma Insurance Department. We’ve dealt with tornadoes, high winds as well as earthquakes. We’ve implemented meaningful programs to help Oklahomans understand and respond to their insurance needs. We’ve also asked the State of Oklahoma to let us stand on our own two feet financially by removing us from the legislative appropriations process. 2016 has been a big year for our office and as a result, we’ve highlighted some of our efforts I am most proud of:

Insurance Commissioner Doak Calls for No State Funding of His Agency – March
Because of the budget crisis in Oklahoma and the OID’s ability to operate on the licensing fees collected, our agency requested to no longer receive funds from the state. Since I took office in 2011, the OID has received more than $9,000,000 in appropriated funds. In that same time period, the Legislature has taken $28,500,000 from the OID’s revolving account.

Insurance Help Available for Tornado Victims – May
A state of emergency was declared in 15 Oklahoma counties after deadly tornadoes, severe storms, straight-line winds and flooding. Staff from the OID canvassed Garvin County, one of the hardest hit areas, to speak with tornado victims and help them with insurance concerns. Anti-fraud investigators were also on the ground in the towns impacted by the storms to educate people on potential scams.

Commissioner Doak Declares Earthquake Insurance Market Noncompetitive – June
After months of research and a public hearing to discuss the rise in earthquake insurance rates, I declared the earthquake insurance market noncompetitive. The order changes the way insurance companies file their rates with the OID. Now, they must show a valid reason for a rate increase. The requirement ensures earthquake coverage remains available and affordable.

Insurance Department Offering Help After Historic Earthquake – September
The OID stepped in to help after the strongest earthquake in Oklahoma history struck Pawnee County. I walked through some of the damage after the 5.6 quake with Mayor Brad Sewell, and our Consumer Assistance team set up at the Pawnee Public Library to answer insurance questions for anyone with damage.

Insurance Department Reaching Out to Consumers After Cushing Earthquake – November
The town of Cushing had significant damage after a 5.0 earthquake. As I toured the wreckage with city officials, I heard many stories from residents about why they didn’t have earthquake insurance. While the Consumer Assistance team sat up a make-shift outreach center at the Chamber of Commerce, I met with insurance agents in the area to clarify the common misconceptions on earthquake insurance.

Nationwide Service Will Help Oklahomans Find Lost Life Insurance Policies – November
Oklahomans now have access to a national service that helps them find life insurance policy benefits. The service builds on the life insurance policy locator program developed at OID and other state insurance departments. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) launched the new tool last month. The free tool has a bigger database that can search across the country, not just in Oklahoma. So far, the NAIC has received 635 policy locator requests from Oklahomans.

These are just some of the many achievements the OID has accomplished in 2016. We look forward to helping more Oklahomans in 2017 and making positive strides in the new year.

For more insurance information, contact the Oklahoma Insurance Department at 1-800-522-0071 or visit our website at www.oid.ok.gov.

OKLAHOMA CITY (Dec. 15, 2016) – At its regularly scheduled monthly meeting, the State Board of Education (SBE) today voted unanimously to approve the final recommendations of the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE) for a new system of assessment and accountability scheduled to take effect in the 2017-2018 school year.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister commended the board’s approval of the school report card system that emerged from the months-long work of a 95-member Assessment and Accountability Task Force.

“This proposed accountability system is a more reliable, valid and meaningful measure of student and school performance, one that includes a wealth of information that removes a bias against high-poverty districts while placing an emphasis on individual student academic growth,” she said. “Informed by a diverse task force of education stakeholders, this plan represents a more robust, contextualized approach to school accountability. We are grateful for the efforts of task force members, whose countless hours of collaboration resulted in a system we can all take pride in. I am confident that the new school report card will serve the needs of families, communities, schools, educators and above all, the schoolchildren of Oklahoma.”

The new school report card meets federal and state mandates established by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which replaced No Child Left Behind, and House Bill 3218, which Gov. Mary Fallin signed into state law earlier this year. House Bill 3218 mandated that a new system of state assessment and accountability be presented to the SBE for approval before Jan. 1, 2017.

The new calculation gives equal weight to student performance in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics as well as student growth in these subjects. Other indicators include English language proficiency assessment (ELPA) progress, graduation rate, postsecondary opportunities and chronic absenteeism, which is defined as missing at least 10 percent of the school year.

Elementary and middle school report card scores will be factored with a 90-point rubric as follows:

ELA performance – 15 pts.
Math performance – 15 pts.
Science performance – 5 pts.
ELA growth – 15 pts.
Math growth – 15 pts.
English language proficiency assessment (ELPA) progress – 15 pts.
Chronic absenteeism – 10 pts.
While high school grading is similar to that of elementary and middle schools, greater emphasis is placed on college and career readiness. Measuring growth is problematic in the short term given that OSDE is recommending an off-the-shelf college-readiness exam for 11th grade, but the OSDE’s final report details how a growth indicator could be added within several years.

The point structure for high schools is:

ELA performance – 15 pts.
Math performance – 15 pts.
Science performance – 15 pts.
ELPA progress – 15 pts.
Graduation rate – 10 pts.
Chronic absenteeism – 10 pts.
Postsecondary opportunity – 10 pts.

In addition, a high school can receive an additional point for high participation and proficiency in U.S. History.

 

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak will ride-along with Oklahoma Highway Patrol (OHP) troopers to raise awareness of highway safety laws. Commissioner Doak wants to make sure drivers are moving over for emergency vehicles, maintaining liability insurance coverage and not texting and driving.

“This is one of the busiest weeks for road travel,” said Doak. “We want to make sure everyone gets to their destinations safely. The best way to do that is to devote your full attention to driving. Safety is our main goal, but we also want people to avoid crashes that could lead to higher auto insurance premiums.”

Oklahoma’s Move Over law requires drivers to move over a lane of traffic when encountering flashing lights on the roadway, either from emergency vehicles or tow trucks. Another state law requires drivers involved in non-injury wrecks to move off the roadway to exchange insurance information in order to not block the flow of traffic.

Commissioner Doak also hopes to raise awareness of Oklahoma’s compulsory auto insurance requirement. Drivers are required to carry liability coverage. It is estimated that one in four Oklahoma drivers doesn’t have it.

OHP will take part in the fourth annual “Interstate 40 Challenge Drive to Zero Fatalities” traffic safety initiative. It will consist of increased patrols along the I-40 corridor that stretches through California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Tennessee, Arkansas, Oklahoma and North Carolina. The challenge will take place on Nov. 23 and Nov. 27. Troopers will focus on drivers who are in violation of state laws, including those related to speeding, impaired driving, occupant protection and texting.

AAA Oklahoma is projecting that 556,000 Oklahomans will drive to their Thanksgiving destinations this year.

Thursday, 10 November 2016 18:06

Get Screened for Diabetes, Oklahoma

By John D. Doak, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner

The month of November is for giving thanks. We reflect on the blessings of our life, our family and our health. And this month, I’m asking that you reflect on a disease that is debilitating and killing our friends and family and maybe even yourself.

World Diabetes Day is on Nov. 14. It’s a time to understand the disease, recognize the signs and symptoms and know where to turn for proper medical care. This year organizers want to encourage people to get screened for diabetes.

More than 450,000 people in Oklahoma have diabetes. Of these, an estimated 100,000 have diabetes but don’t know it. Most of these cases are type 2 diabetes. In fact, a person can live with type 2 diabetes for a long time without knowing it. But by the time of diagnosis, diabetes complications can already have taken a toll.

That’s why, on World Diabetes Day, we are rallying together to ask Oklahomans to get screened. The earlier a person is diagnosed, the earlier treatment can start to reduce the risk of harmful complications. These complications include cardiovascular disease, blindness, kidney failure and lower-limb amputation.

People with diabetes also have medical expenses about 2.3 times higher than those who do not have diabetes. The disease costs an estimated $3.7 billion in Oklahoma each year. Depending on the diagnosis and your life stage, there is help to manage the costs associated with diabetes.

Families and children with diabetes

In the past, many people with diabetes and other chronic conditions who tried to buy insurance had a hard time finding a plan that would accept them, that was affordable or that provided adequate coverage. Since 2014, insurance plans are not allowed to deny coverage or charge more because a person has diabetes or any other pre-existing condition.

Seniors with diabetes

Medicare beneficiaries who have diabetes need to review their Part D prescription drug plan during open enrollment which ends on Dec. 7. This is a time to make sure you are not paying too much for insulin or other diabetes medication. Depending on income, some seniors may also qualify for extra help to pay for prescriptions.

The Oklahoma Insurance Department’s Medicare Assistance Program (MAP) is offering free, unbiased help during open enrollment. Trained counselors can help beneficiaries understand Medicare benefits and the enrollment process. For help, call MAP at 800-763-2828.

Every year about 19,000 Oklahomans are diagnosed with diabetes. So, on Nov. 14, let World Diabetes Day serve as a reminder of the importance of diabetes screening and early detection. For more information on World Diabetes Day, go to www.worlddiabetesday.org.

For more insurance information, contact the Oklahoma Insurance Department at 1-800-522-0071 or visit our website at www.oid.ok.gov.

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