Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Health Care Reform May Have Greater Impact on Oklahoma

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Health Care Reform May Have Greater Impact on Oklahoma

Article excerpt

By Doug Ferguson

Associated Press

TULSA _ Whatever comes out of national health care reform likely will affect Oklahoma more than other states because of Oklahoma's small business flavor, a state researcher said Tuesday.

Michael Lapolla said while nothing on the horizon would have an immediate impact on Oklahoma businesses, executives should pay close attention as national reform unfolds and "let's not make believe that nothing is going to happen."

"To the extent that national health care reform affects small business, it's going to affect Oklahoma a little bit more than the average eastern or northern state," said Lapolla, director of Oklahoma State University's Center for Health Policy Research.

"Because of the small business flavor of Oklahoma, we have to be sensitive to that at the national level when we evaluate the impact of whatever the feds come up with," he said.

Lapolla was one of four panelists at Oklahoma State's annual "Economic Outlook Conference." A similar conference is planned Wednesday night in Oklahoma City.

Economic forecasters predict an increase of 17,000 nonagricultural jobs this year, a 4.9 percent increase in personal income and a continuing slide in oil production.

"It should be a pretty good year for the state and the nation," said Gerald Lage, an economics professor.

This year's outlook included a special section on health care reform.

Lapolla said of the 75,000 business establishments in Oklahoma, 75 percent employ fewer than 10 people and only 23 businesses have more than 5,000 employees. Of those 23 businesses, 10 are run by the government.

Nearly half of the employees are in retail and service industries, which Lapolla said represents the hardest group to equip with health care coverage.

If small business get subsidies to help pay their premiums, "that's sort of a good deal," Lapolla said. …

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