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New Report Bolsters Case for Workers Comp Rate Cut, Senators Urge Regulators to Considers Latest Stats

A positive report about Oklahoma's workers compensation environment should bolster the case for another reduction in rates, according to three state lawmakers who have been pushing for a comp rate cut.

Senator Brad Henry, Senator Bruce Price and Senator Penny Williams cited a new report by a member of the Oklahoma Advisory Council on Workers Compensation, documenting several positive trends in the comp arena.

"The evidence in favor of another workers comp rate cut is overwhelming. That should make the job of state regulators pretty easy. They'll just have to decide how large the reduction should be," said Senator Henry.

According to an analysis prepared by Bob Burke of the Oklahoma Advisory Council on Workers Compensation, legislative reforms and other factors have helped drive costs down in the market. Some of the positive trends cited in the report include:

  • Workers comp claims are down. Claims filed by employees have decreased by 26 percent since 1994 and are at their lowest level since 1990;

  • Since 1994, claims have decreased by 50 percent in the construction industry, 54 percent in manufacturing and 42 percent in retails services;

  • Lawyer involvement in comp cases has declined by 20 percent since 1994;

  • Permanent partial disability awards declined by 26 percent or $37 million from 1997 to 1998, falling to their lowest level since 1991;

  • Orders denying or partially denying workers comp claims have increased by 66 percent since 1994.

"Those kinds of statistics are great news for Oklahoma businesses. They tell the story of an improving workers comp market and a positive economic climate. That should translate into lower insurance rates for business owners," said Senator Price.

The State Board for Property and Casualty Rates will meet later this month to consider another rate reduction. If the panel approves a cut, it will be the fifth consecutive reduction approved in as many years.

"Businesses shouldn't be paying a penny more than is necessary. The last thing we want is for them to overpay. We think the evidence supports a rate cut and that's what we're pushing for," said Senator Williams.

The Legislature approved five major workers comp reform packages in the past seven years, driving down costs through the increased use of independent medical examiners, restrictions on attorney fees, tougher fraud enforcement, job safety programs and the introduction of medical cost containment and managed care.

The latest reform measure, SB 680, was approved in May of this year. The legislation paid off delinquent claims of injured workers, provided an insurance rebate to many business owners and reduced fee assessments on insurance companies.

The organization that represents the insurance industry, the National Council on Compensation Insurance, predicted SB 680 would cause additional savings in the comp market.

"We've done everything we can to set the stage for another rate cut. I don't think there's any question that Oklahoma businesses deserve a reduction in comp premiums," said Senator Henry, author of SB 680.

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Senate Communications Division - (405) 521-5605