OKLAHOMA CITY – Ensuring that private-sector employees have access to health insurance in times of emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic will be the focus of an interim legislative study in the state House of Representatives.
The coronavirus has “exposed a lot of holes in the system by which our economy runs,” said state Rep. Forrest Bennett, D-Oklahoma City. Bennett requested the study.
Employees “should be making a decent wage” but many are living just one or two paychecks away from serious financial trouble, he said. “Many Oklahomans have a full-time job and some work more than 40 hours a week, yet “they’re living pretty tight.” A great number of workers have employer-sponsored health insurance, which has proved problematic during the public health pandemic because virtually the entire economy nationwide shut down for weeks and layoffs soared to record levels, Bennett noted.
His interim study, “Employment Issues Related to COVID-19,” was assigned to the House Committee on Government Efficiency. Rep. Daniel Pae, R-Lawton, is vice chairman of that panel, and its members include Reps. Brad Boles, R-Marlow, and Bennett.
“My hope is we can talk about wages and benefits, and start a conversation about how too much health insurance is tied to a job,” Bennett said.
“A bunch of people lost their jobs just when they needed their health insurance the most.” COBRA may make insurance coverage available to a worker for a short time after a job loss, but it’s expensive.
Interim studies in the House of Representatives must be conducted by Oct. 29, Speaker Charles McCall decreed.