As a businessman, I know that you often have to spend money to make money. Investment is critical for economic success. Improving Oklahoma and making the state competitive benefits all Oklahomans, which is why we must be ready and willing to invest in ourselves.
Oklahoma's workers' compensation system is broken. We need to fix it, but a real fix will require some investment. For too long, our well-intentioned state leaders have tinkered around the edges of the system, only to have their reform efforts overturned by the courts. As a result, now we know that true reform will only come from removing the courts from the workers' compensation system.
Moving to an administrative system returns the decision-making process back to the employees in better cooperation with their employers. Getting the medical treatment out of the hands of attorneys and back into the hands of the two people who want that injured worker back to work — the employee and the employer — will reduce costs and get injured workers back on the job sooner.
While the solution seems obvious, one of the complaints most often voiced about changing Oklahoma's adversarial, court-based workers' comp system to an administrative system is that it will cost too much to create and operate. I think I speak for all Oklahoma business owners when I say that we can't afford not to change our system.
Workers' comp premiums cost Oklahoma employers more than $900 million each year. The state has the sixth-highest premium costs in the nation. In Oklahoma, 18 percent of the workforce is employed by the government, which means the cost to cities, counties and the state alone in premiums each year is $162 million. The highest price being discussed for the move to an administrative system is $6.5 million. So if the state saw a 10 percent reduction in premiums it would pay for itself with money left over.
Arkansas has an administrative system. Its costs are the third-lowest in the nation — less than half of our costs. As a state, we can't afford to lag behind Arkansas any longer. We should consider providing the best workers' comp system in the nation an investment in our infrastructure.
It's time to invest in Oklahoma employees, employers and our economic future by changing our workers' compensation system to an administrative system.
Glass is president of Glass Trucking in Newkirk.