A revised version of a bill that would dramatically change workers' compensation in Oklahoma is more workable than the last, but still full of problems.
Good policy or not, the House version of Senate Bill 1062 could not be implemented in its current form, said Michael Carter, chairman of the advisory board that oversees the state's workers' comp system.
“It remains a bill that is not a piece of legislation that can actually work,” Carter said.
Carter made his remarks during a special board meeting Thursday called specifically to review the bill's progress.
The House Judiciary Committee earlier this week approved a revised version of Senate Bill 1062, which would move the state's workers' comp system from a court-based one to an administrative one.
The bill — identified as a top priority for state lawmakers and Gov. Mary Fallin — now goes to the House Calendar Committee, which will decide whether it gets a hearing on the floor of the full House.
Carter said the revised bill makes for a confusing transition from court to administrative system and neglects key mechanisms by which current claims would continue to be processed.
The new bill establishes a system for collecting and depositing fees into special guaranty and trust funds under the new system — something the Senate version did not — but it continues to neglect a similar fee and funding structure for current claims, he said.
“They have to keep the court system to adjudicate the current claims, but the way this is done the only thing the current system has is judges and nothing else — no money, no funds, no place to meet, nothing,” he said. “They can fix that; they just need to.”
Carter also criticized the latest draft for neglecting to address medical costs, which comprised almost half of the estimated $800 million in claims paid out by insurance companies to injured workers last year.
The board voted last month to oppose Senate Bill 1062. Lacking a quorum, the board took no action Thursday.
House Speaker T.W. Shannon said the measure likely won't be taken up anytime soon by the full House.
“We've still got some cleanup changes we may need to do, so it's probably headed to conference at this point,” said Shannon, R-Lawton.