Editorial: Oklahoma takes another stab at workers comp reform
BY World's Editorials Writers
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
1/23/13 at 7:14 AM
There have been almost annual attempts in the Legislature to "reform" the state workers compensation system, going back at least to the 1970s. Despite numerous reforms, Oklahoma still does not have a system that satisfies many employers.
According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance, which collects data used to set compensation insurance rates, Oklahoma workers are far more likely than those in neighboring states to file workers comp claims and to miss days of work because of claimed injuries.
Likewise, total costs for workers comp claims are far higher in Oklahoma than in surrounding states.
Anecdotally, some companies that do business in multiple states say that workers comp is a more costly prospect here than elsewhere.
No wonder that a lobby group representing state employers, the Oklahoma Injury Benefit Coalition, will be pressing lawmakers for another reform attempt in the coming session. (See Staff Writer Randy Krehbiel's story in Monday's Tulsa World.)
The coalition proposes a new system that is somewhat like that in Texas - which allows employers to opt out of the workers comp system - but that doesn't go as far. The coalition's plan would require minimum benefits and would not let employers avoid providing benefits altogether.
The goal of the reformers is to minimize the role of attorneys in the process and reduce duplicative medical consultations, which they say are factors in the high cost.
Workers compensation is essentially an agreement in which workers give up their right to sue their employers in court for personal injury in return for a promise that when hurt on the job they will receive care and rehabilitation. Striking a balance between what is fair for workers and fair for employers is difficult, but apparently many states do a better job of it than Oklahoma.
It's time this issue is resolved once and for all.
Original Print Headline: Workers comp