Group targets workers' compensation system in Oklahoma

Republican legislative leaders vow to Oklahoma City business leaders they will overhaul the workers' compensation system.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Modified: January 31, 2013 at 10:57 pm •  Published: February 1, 2013
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House Democrats are befuddled because Republican Gov. Mary Fallin and GOP legislative leaders claimed measures passed and signed into law two years ago would reduce rates. Some of those changes are just now taking effect.

“If you're going to pass any reforms, you've got to give it a number of years before those reforms materialize into lower rates,” he said. “Our position is we want to invest and wait and see what happens with those reforms. … We also want to work on controlling the out-of-control medical care costs.”

A workers' compensation claim takes about three years to complete and some can be reopened 10 years later, he said. If an administrative system is enacted, the current judicial system would have to remain in place to take care of those claims, Inman said.

House Speaker-elect T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, said all options should be considered, including an idea to allow mostly large employers to create their own workers' compensation plans and opt out of the state system. A bill proposing that change last year failed to pass the House.

“We have had workers' compensation reform in the past; we have not lowered rates,” he said. “We have to have quantifiable evidence that the reforms that we're making are going to lower rates.

“We have an opportunity in Oklahoma to lower those rates by moving either to an administrative system or looking at an opt-out system,” he said.

Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage, D-Claremore, said Democrats want to lower workers' compensation rates, but lawmakers should look first at controlling rising medical costs.

“Lots of people are making lots of money,” he said. “Historically we thought it was claimants and attorneys … but we've learned in the last three or four years is that doctors and hospitals are making money, too. … And that has been the real stumbling block in bringing the costs down in my opinion.”

Burrage said he hasn't been shown any of the Republican proposals to change the workers' compensation system.

“For me to comment on any of the proposals would be tough because I haven't been included,” he said. “But I look forward to seeing what comes forward.”



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