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Workers' comp proposal could save Oklahoma businesses big bucks

A cost analysis estimates Oklahoma employers could save as much as $969 million in workers' compensation costs each year if Senate Bill 1062 is passed. Critics say the bill chips away at employee rights and does little to address medical costs.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD Modified: February 26, 2013 at 10:43 pm •  Published: February 27, 2013

Medical costs comprise more than 46 percent of total costs to the state, according to the council analysis. The proposed Senate bill would reduce those costs by only $1.9 million, or about 0.2 percent.

“Are we looking at saving money on the medical or are we just taking money from injured workers? That's the question I'm going to have,” said Senate Minority Leader Sean Burrage.

Burrage, D-Claremore, has proposed an amendment to the bill that would cap reimbursements for medical expenses at 150 percent of the Medicare reimbursement rate.

A similar cap was included in working drafts of the legislation as recent as Feb. 4, according to a State Chamber of Oklahoma document obtained by The Oklahoman last week.

A council analysis prepared in late January but not released to the public indicated savings under that cap could amount to as much as $14 million.

Bingman, R-Sapulpa, said there are other ways the proposed legislation will reduce medical costs, including a more rigorous fee schedule for doctors — and new rules, set by system commissioners instead of judges.

“They will adopt the rules that the system will operate under and that also will include the fees for the doctors,” he said.

Atkins said cuts to compensation awarded to injured employees will bring the state in line with its neighbors.

Only about 44 percent of compensation benefits currently awarded by the state go toward actual medical costs, Atkins said. The remaining 56 percent is spent on nonmedical expenses, such as time off work, he said — the highest in an eight-state region.

This is a game-changing piece of legislation. This is something that could be a national model.”

Nathan Atkins,
spokesman for Senate

Pro Tem Brian Bingman


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