The Moore American

February 20, 2013

Senate unveils Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act

American Staff
The Moore American

MOORE —  Oklahoma’s adversarial workers’ compensation system will be replaced with an administrative system under a measure unveiled Monday in the Oklahoma Senate.

Senate Bill 1062, authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman and co-authored by Sen. Anthony Sykes, was considered in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Feb. 12. It passed with an 8-2 vote in the committee and now heads to a floor vote before the full Senate.

“Today’s vote is an undeniably strong signal of support for replacing Oklahoma’s broken workers’ compensation system,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “We have to put the brakes on our runaway workers’ compensation system if we are serious about growing our state’s economy. I applaud my colleagues in the Senate Judiciary Committee for their dedication to making Oklahoma a more prosperous place to live, work, and raise a family.” 

The Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act seeks to reduce the cost of workers’ compensation premiums and ensure injured workers receive quality care in a timely manner. 

Bingman described Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation costs as a drag on Oklahoma’s economy and urged the passage of SB 1062.

“The biggest roadblock to a stronger economy in Oklahoma is our adversarial workers’ compensation system,” said Bingman, R-Sapulpa. “Worse yet, our adversarial system doesn’t do a very good job of helping injured workers get the care they need to get healed and back to work. The system is designed to reward trial lawyers for dragging cases out and delaying outcomes as long as possible.” 

Oklahoma’s current judicial workers’ compensation system has been identified as one of the most expensive in the nation. Recent national studies, like the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services survey, cite Oklahoma as having one of the highest premiums in the country at $2.77 for every $100 of payroll — equating to 147 percent of the national median. Meanwhile, Oklahoma’s regional neighbors boast far lower costs.

SB 1062 is modeled on a similar administrative system in the state of Arkansas. Workers’ compensation insurance premiums under the Arkansas administrative system were rated in the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services Survey at $1.19 per $100 of payroll — less than half the cost of premiums paid by Oklahoma businesses.

Bingman said in addition to reducing costs for business, SB 1062 will generate better outcomes for injured workers. An administrative system will resolve cases based on an evaluation of the merits of the case and objective medical evidence. Under the current judicial system, employees are often pitted against their employer in litigation proceedings characterized by dueling trial lawyers and dueling doctors.

Sen. Anthony Sykes, chair of the Judiciary Committee and co-author of the measure, learned first-hand about the benefits of an administrative system on a fact-finding trip to Arkansas.

“The Arkansas system is a model for states that want a system designed to help injured workers get the care they need without delay,” said Sykes, R-Moore. “Oklahoma’s small business owners care about their employees, and they know they wouldn’t be successful without them. I believe this system is the right solution for employees, and it’s good for business.”

Under SB 1062, an administrative system would be structured with three commissioners appointed by the governor, subject to senate approval, for six-year staggered terms. The commission will then appoint administrative law judges to hear all claims for compensation.