Democratic leaders oppose wholesale workers' comp changes, while changing the system has been a longtime goal for Republican lawmakers. It also is a high priority of The State Chamber as well as Tulsa and Oklahoma City chambers of commerce. An Oklahoma City chamber official said Oklahoma companies pay the sixth-highest workers' compensation rates in the country.
House Minority Leader Scott Inman, D-Del City, said he agrees changes are needed, but it's premature to make a major overhaul. 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.
“In order to see a precipitous drop in premiums, it may take another two or three years for that to happen,” Inman said, “and we don't want to see a knee-jerk reaction that we may not be able to afford now.”
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.
“You can't offer an entirely new system … that will cost between $5 million and $10 million, if it's anything like the current system,” he said. “How can we as a state afford to set up an entirely new … system when for at least a decade or more we're going to have to run a parallel judicial system?”
Inman said it would be more effective to work to control medical costs of the workers' compensation system.