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Rice returns


Former state senator Andrew Rice is back in OKC, this time as head of the Variety Care Foundation.

Mark Beutler November 6th, 2012

Less than a year ago, Oklahoma lost one of its rising young political stars when former state Sen. Andrew Rice announced he was leaving. The twoterm senator had been the Senate’s Democratic leader and in 2008 lost a hard-fought race against U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe.

Andrew Rice
Credit: Mark Hancock

Rice resigned from his legislative seat when his wife, Apple, a physician, accepted a position in Nashville. The family headed east.

Now the Rice family is back in Oklahoma City.

“The job opportunity for my wife that took us there was not an ideal situation for her or for us, from a quality-of-life standpoint,” said Rice, 39. “Also, it was such a hard decision for us to leave Oklahoma City in the first place.”

Rice has returned as executive director of the Variety Care Foundation. He said he is ideally suited for the work with Variety, the state’s largest community health center.

In the world of the Affordable Care Act, Rice said, Variety is in a position to play a key role in the future of health care.

“Variety is a stabilizing force for families and individuals,” he said. “We offer an affordable place where you not only go to get well when you are sick, but also a place that will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and prevent getting sick.”

Rice noted that the preventive-care approach makes good sense economically. “It is much cheaper to spend a fraction of the money earlier in the process on wellness and prevention,” he said. “And Variety Care is perfectly aligned to help actualize those goals.”

Oklahoma routinely lands at the top of the “worst states” lists when it comes to health-related concerns like obesity, diabetes and tobacco use. Rice said he believes that the ACA will have a positive impact on Oklahoma and other states with public health challenges.

He noted that health care becomes more complicated and expensive when individuals, particularly the elderly, must contend with more than one challenge. Rice suggested that integrating medical, dental and mental health services under one roof would improve health outcomes and patient satisfaction. Patient education and care management allow health care providers to help people understand how lifestyle choices affect their health.

Variety Care Foundation
Credit: Mark Hancock

“I don’t think anyone — regardless of politics, religion or ideology — would object to people making better choices and getting well,” he added.

As for the ever-present question about whether he will return to state government, Rice said he has no immediate plans to do so.

“There are things I miss about politics, but even more things I don’t miss,” he said.


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