Oklahoma state Senate approves workers' comp overhaul

A bill that would overhaul Oklahoma's workers' compensation court passed the state Senate 34-12.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD zcampfield@opubco.com Published: February 27, 2013

Proposed benefit changes include reducing to 70 percent the amount of weekly pay injured employees can collect while away from their jobs; a reduction by 23 percent in the amount an injured worker could collect if an arm is amputated; substantial cuts to benefits paid to the spouse of an employee killed on the job; and a requirement that injured employees report their injury within three days or miss out on benefits altogether.

The bill would remove some injury classifications, including injuries sustained by repetitive work, like carpal tunnel syndrome, and would exclude anyone from claiming benefits if they return to work after an injury.

Medical costs

Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage, D-Claremore, said the bill does not promise limits on workers' comp premiums nor does it address medical costs, which comprise 46 percent of workers' comp costs.

“You're saying if you're an amputee you're going to get less money, if you're off work through no fault of your own you're going to get less money; but if you're a doctor who sends these folks to court and says they've got an injury, you get to keep the same money,” Burrage said. “We've got doctors that are making 2-, 3-, 400 percent what they would make if it were a Medicare complaint. And what are we doing about that today? Nothing.”

Sen. Patrick Anderson, R-Enid, was one of two Republicans to vote against the bill Wednesday.

An administrative system and an opt-out option is “the right direction to go,” Anderson said. “But what gravely concerns me is how we're finding the savings, and Sen. Burrage is right — we are not addressing the reimbursement rates, which are a huge driver of the workers' compensation costs, and we're putting the savings on the back of the injured employees.”

Bingman said less than half of compensation benefits currently awarded to injured workers go toward actual medical costs. And treatment guidelines included in the legislation will assist administrators in setting the fees that doctors can charge for some treatments, he said.



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