Oklahoma medical association director: Medical costs not the issue in workers’ comp

BY JOHN A. ROBINSON, M.D. Modified: April 24, 2013 at 7:53 am •  Published: April 24, 2013
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The central fact that injured workers need access to quality medical care can often get lost in the debate about workers’ compensation reforms and costs. But that issue strikes at the core of what treating physicians are committed to providing in Oklahoma.

Unfortunately, “Workers’ comp bill ignores medical costs” (News, April 7) may leave readers the impression that medical costs in Oklahoma are a significant driver of workers’ compensation costs, and a central component of needed reforms. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), the largest provider of data and analysis on state workers’ compensation systems, cites Oklahoma’s medical costs as almost half the national and regional averages.

Oklahoma medical providers have received regular cuts to the workers’ compensation medical fee schedule since 2004 — the latest cut being more than $40 million in 2011, which was mandated by the Legislature. All this while costs for treating injured workers continue to rise.

Included in the story was the question by some lawmakers why an earlier proposal to tie the workers’ comp fee schedule to a Medicare cap was dropped from pending legislation. The simple answer is this has been done in other states, namely Texas, and resulted in a mass exodus of physicians from the workers’ comp system. In fact, Texas and several other states have recently raised their rates to make it financially feasible for physicians to treat injured workers.

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