When the measure takes effect in July 2022, legislative fiscal analysts expect an $11.8 million decrease in state sales tax collections in the first year, including a $5 million direct impact on Oklahoma City’s collections. OU Health plans to help the city offset its expenses for the first five years through a staggered payment system. “This is a concerted effort to make Oklahoma as a whole healthier, and we’re going to wind up with nurse practitioners who can help so many,” Harroz said. Supporters believe the sales tax impact will continue to decrease each year as more people enter the health care profession, open practices and pay taxes.
The measure restores a decades-old sales tax exemption that the hospital system had been granted from 1909 through 1997 when it operated as a non-profit. The Legislature revoked that exemption in 1997 when the University Hospitals Authority privatized the hospital system and hired an out-of-state for-profit company to run it. Harroz said Oklahoma ranks 46th in the number of physicians per capita. Nursing advocates, meanwhile, said it has 40% fewer nurses per capita than the national average. But the state ranks 11th in the country in retaining physicians who come to Oklahoma to train for their residency, Harroz said.
Harroz said the bill’s approval comes in tandem with the transition back to non-profit status with the merger of the hospital with the physician practice. “This is a major move forward to allow for a healthier Oklahoma, the providers we need desperately,” he said.
He said rural Oklahoma struggles to attract medical doctors, but the increased number of trained nurse practitioners will make a difference. State Rep. Kevin Wallace, R-Wellston, said a companion measure — House Bill 2874 — which contains the workforce development piece is still working its way through the legislative process. State Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, said the measure, which failed last year, will not only benefit Oklahoma City, but the entire state.
He also said the measure will be a big economic driver. “One thing that we figured out last year, and it was laid bare (by COVID-19), is the shortage of medical doctors, nurses and nurse practitioners, and this bill directly addresses that,” said State Sen. Greg Treat, R-Oklahoma City, the president pro tem.
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