Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Bill Pushes State to Take Lead in Medical Research / State-Funded Research Proposed

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Bill Pushes State to Take Lead in Medical Research / State-Funded Research Proposed

Article excerpt

A special interim legislative committee is considering a bill that could push Oklahoma to the forefront of medical research in the nati on, its sponsors say.

Rep. Linda Larason, chairwoman of the committee, said the measure would make Oklahoma the first state to fund health-related research on a broad scale.

Larason, D-Oklahoma City, sees the bill as a way to ensure state medical facilities get their share of dwindling federal and private research funds.

She said it also could be a boon to the state's economic development effort, creating a new major industry with spinoffs in all areas of the health field.

""No other state is doing anything like this," Larason said. "Texas and California have started funding some technical research - high-tech sort of things - but they are not funding medical research to any extent.

""The potential is tremendous for Oklahoma.''

Much of the discussion concerning the bill has been centered on using facilities at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center and Oklahoma Memorial Hospital.

But sponsors said all areas of the state with medical research under way would be able to compete for funds.

The bill calls for increasing the premium tax on life and health insurance policies by 1.25 percent over a five-year period. The increase would be one-quarter of 1 percent the first year.

The tax currently is 4 percent, but Larason said an offset provision in state law gives insurance firms the opportunity to have a zero-based tax.

Theoretically, proponents say, the bill could work to eventually bring down health care costs by prevention techniques and cures developed through research.

""It makes sense to me that the life insurance and health insurance industry should have a real interest in health research - into disease prevention and finding cures - to eventually keep down health care costs,'' Larason said.

But the proposal was opposed at a committee meeting last week by Horace Rhodes, a representative of the Association of Oklahoma Life Insurance Cos. …

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