State Headlines - April 21

Glitches prompt suspension of Oklahoma tests again

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — For the second consecutive year, standardized testing for Oklahoma students has been disrupted, prompting the state superintendent to suspend all online testing for the day.

Superintendent Janet Barresi directed testing vendor CTB/McGraw Hill to suspend its testing Monday after disruptions for students taking high school end-of-instruction exams and tests in grades six through eight.

A similar glitch stalled testing last year in Oklahoma and elsewhere.

A spokesman for CTB/McGraw Hill said the company planned to issue a statement about the testing situation. A press conference with Barresi and officials from the testing vendor was planned for Monday afternoon.

Districts have been told to allow students who successfully accessed the tests to complete them, but to suspend online testing for those students who hadn't started.

Durant hospital agrees to settle fraud case

DURANT, Okla. (AP) — A hospital in Durant and its parent company have agreed to pay $1.5 million to resolve claims alleging that an otolaryngologist billed the state's Medicaid program for unnecessary sinus surgeries performed on children.

U.S. Attorney Mark Green said the Medical Center of Southeastern Oklahoma and its parent company, Health Management Associates Inc., will pay $1,065,000 to the federal government and $435,000 to SoonerCare, the state's Medicaid program.

"Fraud, such as billing for services that aren't necessary, costs the taxpayers of Oklahoma thousands of dollars," Green said. "The False Claims Act is a valuable weapon in the government's arsenal to combat these types of abuse."

The claims were first raised in a whistleblower lawsuit. The suit alleged that an otolaryngologist performed unnecessary functional endoscopic sinus surgeries on children who did not need the procedures. The suit also claimed that Medical Center of Southeastern Oklahoma billed SoonerCare for hospital services that the doctor did not perform.

The Durant Daily Democrat reports the hospital is denying the allegations.

"We do not believe that the hospital submitted inappropriate claims and we did not admit to any wrongdoing or liability in this case," the hospital said in a statement. "We negotiated the settlement to avoid the potential for long and more costly litigation."

The hospital said the otolaryngologist involved in the case is no longer employed at the medical center.


Oklahoma court denies school shelter rehearing

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An organization that wants to place storm shelters in Oklahoma's public schools says it's abandoning the effort and will launch a second petition following the Oklahoma Supreme Court's decision to stand by an earlier ruling in the case.

An attorney for Take Shelter Oklahoma, David Slane, announced the group's plan Monday after the state's highest court handed down its ruling on State Question 767. The group started gathering signatures for the petition after seven children were killed in May by a tornado that slammed into Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore.

The Supreme Court ruled earlier this month the group had 90 days to collect enough signatures to get the measure on the ballot but that a ballot title rewritten by the attorney general's office could make clear the cost.