Industry groups believe that an overhaul of Oklahoma's workers’ compensation system, a measure signed by Governor Mary Fallin in May, will decrease overall loss costs by as much as 14.6 percent beginning in early 2014.
According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), which supported the overhaul, the reductions represent workers’ compensation premium for indemnity and medical payments and associated adjustment expenses.
One provision of law, SB 1062, includes replacing the state's current workers comp court with an administrative dispute-resolution system, a transition that will occur in February.
“The transition to an administrative system, in which disputed claims are handled by administrative law judges, should provide smoother benefit administration to injured workers based on strict interpretation of the law, and a less adversarial experience as there isn’t much expectation of attorney involvement,” Roy Wood, NCCI’s state relations executive for Oklahoma, told PC360.
“By replacing an archaic adversarial system with a modern administrative system, we have opened the doors for employers and employees to settle claims in a fair and affordable manner,” said Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon in a statement. "Businesses will see a reduction in costs and injured employees remain protected.”
Other provisions of SB 1062 include redrafting the indemnity benefit system to make it easier to navigate without an attorney, allowing state employers to opt out of the workers comp system in favor of a qualified benefit plan, and allowing those in the system to develop their own dispute-resolution program.
In a previous statement, Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak said that Oklahoma “has one of the highest average costs of workers’ compensation benefits in the nation at a rate of $830 per employee. This has not only had an enormous impact on our state economy, but also limits the growth of local businesses. I am thrilled to say that with the signing of this bill, we are about to see positive changes statewide to Oklahoma businesses and employees that will be felt for many years to come.”