Senate President Pro Tempore Mike Morgan declared Thursday that Senate Democrats are unwilling to deny injured workers the right to choose their own physician.
Morgan said he is still hopeful that Republicans will agree to the latest Democratic proposal that protects physician choice and would save Oklahoma businesses $100 million.
“We cannot and will not agree to any legislation that takes away the right of someone injured on the job to choose the doctor that treats them. I do remain hopeful that we will be able to reach agreement before adjournment tomorrow afternoon,” said Morgan, D-Stillwater.
If acceptable legislation can’t be agreed upon then the Senate leader said he will ask Governor Brad Henry to call for a Special Session of the Oklahoma Legislature to consider the issue of Workers’ Compensation Reform.
“I believe it is critical that we address workers compensation reform this year and not leave it on the table for those who want to use if for political purposes next session during an election year,” Morgan said.
The Senate Leader said he and other Democrats have made no secret about their opposition to language that would take away the rights of injured workers to choose their own doctor.
“Physician choice has been at the heart of the healthcare debate in this country for the past decade. Members of the general public don’t like their HMO telling them which doctor they can and can’t see. It’s no different when a worker is hurt on the job and their employer chooses the doctor who will assess their injury and treat them,” Morgan said.
Morgan said the on again, off again negotiations on workers’ compensation are apparently continuing but that it’s been very difficult to keep up with who is actually at the negotiating table.
“You’ve heard that old adage about not being able to recognize the players without a program? That’s what it’s been like. This person won’t negotiate with that person and that person won’t negotiate with this person. What we need to do is focus on this issue with all of the players at the table. We can do that in a special session,” Morgan said.
Morgan suggested that Governor Henry work with House and Senate leaders to choose a mutually agreed upon date for the session.
“It’s time for the political gamesmanship to end. It’s time to stop the posturing over who’s going to get the credit for workers’ compensation reform and actually enact some reforms that will protect the rights of injured workers and reduce the costs to businesses,” Morgan said.
The Senate leader said he believes the atmosphere of a special session on workers’ compensation reform will lend itself to an open and honest evaluation of the issue – including physician choice and the relative healthcare and legal costs of the state’s current system.
“If we can focus the attention and energies of 149 members of the Legislature on a single issue, we can find a solution and resolve this issue for the foreseeable future,” Morgan said.