Copying Arkansas: Workers’ Comp Bill at 261 Pages

Republican lawmakers and business leaders have been asking and working for what they call workers’ compensation reform, and it looks like the wholesale changes are on the way. Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman and Sen. Anthony Sykes are the authors of Senate Bill 1062.

A news release from the state Senate says the bill will replace the “adversarial” system with an administrative system. The statement goes on to say:

SB 1062 is modeled on a similar administrative system in the state of Arkansas.  Workers’ compensation insurance premiums under the Arkansas administrative system were rated in the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services Survey at $1.19 per $100 of payroll – less than half the cost of premiums paid by Oklahoma businesses.Bingman said in addition to reducing costs for business, SB 1062 will generate better outcomes for injured workers. An administrative system will resolve cases based on an evaluation of the merits of the case and objective medical evidence.  Under the current judicial system, employees are often pitted against their employer in litigation proceedings characterized by dueling trial lawyers and dueling doctors.Sen. Anthony Sykes, chair of the Judiciary Committee and co-author of the measure, learned first-hand about the benefits of an administrative system on a fact-finding trip to Arkansas.“The Arkansas system is a model for states that want a system designed to help injured workers get the care they need without delay,” said Sykes, R-Moore.  “Oklahoma’s small business owners care about their employees, and they know they wouldn’t be successful without them.  I believe this system is the right solution for employees, and it’s good for business.”Under SB 1062, an administrative system would be structured with three commissioners appointed by the Governor, subject to Senate approval, for six-year staggered terms.  The commission will then appoint administrative law judges to hear all claims for compensation.

The bill will be heard at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Sen. Sykes chairs. I plan to be in the room and will have a report on KGOU during All Things Considered.

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