OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Doug Cox, the only medical doctor serving in the Oklahoma House of Representatives, has been named co-chair of a bipartisan Health Care Reform Task Force.

  House Speaker Chris Benge appointed the group to study the issue of the uninsured and growing health care costs in Oklahoma.

 “We are going to take a comprehensive look at Oklahoma’s health care system and seek to empower patients and increase the number of people in the state with insurance,” said Cox, a Grove Republican who also chairs the House Public Health Committee. “Oklahoma has been at the bottom of too many health rankings and one of the main causes is the large number of uninsured people in the state.”

 A newly released survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that nearly one in three Oklahomans younger than age 65 does not have health insurance – one of the highest rates in the nation.

 The task force members will be charged with studying efforts in other states and gathering testimony from national experts in the heath care field as part of their work.

The task force plans to target Oklahomans who make enough money so they are ineligible for Medicaid, but do not make enough to currently afford private insurance. This is a problem for small businesses in the state as well, struggling to offer health insurance for employees. The group will hopefully develop a core benefits package that would provide a basic, affordable health care plan for Oklahomans, Cox said.

 The task force’s first meeting is scheduled July 24th and will feature Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute in Washington, D.C., as well as officials with the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.

           In addition to Cox, the Task Force members are

    * State Rep. Kris Steele, R-Shawnee and task force co-chair;

    * State Rep. Ron Peterson, R-Broken Arrow;

    * State Rep. Pam Peterson, R-Tulsa;

    * State Rep. Lisa Billy, R-Purcell;

    * State Rep. Wes Hilliard, D-Sulphur; and

    * State Rep. Ben Sherrer, D-Pryor.

“If we can help people obtain insurance and have easy access to preventative care, we’ll see a dramatic change in Oklahoma’s health statistics,” Cox said. “The task force’s findings could lay the foundation for major reform in the 2009 legislative session.”