A bipartisan group of state senators issued the following comments on Tuesday’s passage of Senate Bill 1062, which is the latest attempt at workers’ compensation reform in Oklahoma.
“Today, we voted on what passes for workers’ compensation reform in Oklahoma,” said Claremore Senator and Democratic Leader, Sean Burrage. “We know we need to reform Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system, but when the vast majority of the cost savings are realized by cutting benefits to legitimately injured workers and none of the cost savings are achieved by controlling medical costs, can it really be seen as true ‘reform’?”
“I agree with Pro Tem Bingman and Senator Sykes that having the sixth highest workers compensation rates in the nation is unacceptable. But I disagree with them that this is best way to address this issue. According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), medical costs account for more than 50 percent of all workers’ compensation benefit costs,” Burrage continued. “This bill does nothing to address this part of workers’ compensation costs it purports to be addressing. In fact, less than one percent of the savings this bill creates come from the out-of-control medical expenses in the workers’ compensation system. Almost every penny of savings found in this bill comes from taking legitimate benefits away from legitimately injured workers.”
“This bill literally adds insult to injury,” said Sen. John Sparks, D-Norman. “From cutting weekly Temporary Total Disability maximum payments by 30 percent, when the worker is off work on doctor’s orders and can least afford to be unpaid, to limiting coverage for cumulative trauma, this ‘reform’ finds cost savings almost exclusively by cutting legitimate payments and benefits to legitimately injured workers.”
“This version of workers’ compensation reform incentivizes companies that can barely make payroll to opt out of the system and move money to cover their bottom line,” said Sen. Harry Coates, R-Seminole. “When these companies collapse under the weight of these unbalanced bottom lines, legitimately injured workers will be left to fend for themselves.”