The Oklahoma Senate is narrowly focused on a policy agenda to improve economic opportunity and prosperity for our state — now and in the future. The single greatest threat to economic growth, and with it the quality jobs that will help boost our communities, is Oklahoma's adversarial workers' compensation system.
This is one of the only states using a judicial system to resolve workers' compensation cases. It's a fundamentally adversarial system. We pit employees against employers in a courtroom. The result has been disastrous for business, for Oklahoma, and most importantly, for injured workers.
Oklahoma's system is one of the most expensive in the nation. Workers' compensation insurance premiums fluctuate wildly, sometimes from year to year, resulting in great uncertainty for businesses. This kind of uncertainty is concerning to businesses from out of state looking to relocate. It makes it difficult to recruit businesses to come here when we aren't even remotely competitive with other states in our region.
One recent study by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services placed Oklahoma's premium, $2.77 per $100 of payroll, at 147 percent of the national median. Our costs are the sixth highest among all 50 states. For comparison, premium rates are $1.19 in Arkansas, $1.60 in Texas, and $1.54 in Kansas. Business professionals across Oklahoma lament that we're simply not competitive with our surrounding states. And they are absolutely right.
The workers' compensation court is supposed to help people who are hurt at work. But Oklahoma's adversarial system doesn't help injured workers get quality, timely care. Rather, we incentivize trial lawyers and a few bad actors to game the judicial system. They drag cases out and drive up the cost of awards. Meanwhile, Oklahoma pays the price.
We want to look at successful states such as Arkansas, where businesses and employees work together in an administrative system to resolve disputes. We're exploring arbitration, restrictions on extravagant legal fees, and alternatives for responsible employers to self-insure under narrow restrictions and guidelines. All options are on the table.
The Administrative Workers' Compensation Act is making its way through the Legislature. This bill will help move Oklahoma forward. It will make the state more attractive to business. It will result in better health outcomes for injured workers.
The status quo is unacceptable. If we're serious about jobs and the economy, we must put the brakes on our runaway workers' compensation system.
Bingman, R-Sapulpa, is president pro tem of the Oklahoma Senate.