Over the past week, critics of Oklahoma’s new Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) have raised issues about everything from office furniture to staff structure. What they’ve lost sight of is the purpose and mission of the new workers’ compensation structure: the delivery of a more efficient and effective system for injured workers and their employers.
The WCC began operation less than six months ago. Like any startup, it’s passing through a stage of infancy before transitioning to a growth mode. Rather than allowing critics to impede the infant’s organizational development, we should recognize the considerable successes already realized by this newly reformed system and the positive impact it has and will have on every Oklahoman.
Moving from a costly, inefficient and highly contentious judicial system gives Oklahoma taxpayers the opportunity to reap the benefits from a more progressive and efficient system. The new system represents a departure from prolonged legal disputes that previously existed, where injured workers were caught in litigation limbo for lengthy time periods lasting months or even years rather than getting back to work supporting their families.
We should be proud to now have an innovative system that’s designed to help the grandparent who’s working hard to support three generations of family members. Or the single mom juggling multiple jobs to make ends meet. If injured on the job, these workers can be assured to have a less time consuming and a less stressful process in seeking compensation prior to getting back to work, some in only a couple of weeks. Workers’ comp cases are allowed to flow quickly through a proactive process encouraging resolution, vastly impacting quality of life as well as productivity. Our focus is on the workers and their families.
Earlier resolution also means reduced costs for employers and quicker payment to workers. According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance, the reforms may have already reduced insurance costs to businesses by 14 percent; more savings are expected. With the new workers’ comp system, Oklahoma employers will save approximately $250 million annually.
This is a tremendous boost to businesses that can now spend more on employees, taxes and reinvestment, making this state even more attractive to companies potentially expanding or relocating here. Increasing employment and reinvestment in our state will raise the standard of living for all.
The criticisms recently aimed at the WCC come from a few with a vested interest in the old system. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that we’re here for the many and not for the few. With the establishment of the WCC, the governor and the Legislature have made a bold step. We should applaud their wise decision.
It’s time to let this infant organization mature and realize its potential.
Wilson is chairman of the Workers’ Compensation Commission.