Oklahoma: House, Senate committees approve six WC reform bills
The House Economic Development and Financial Services Committee passed six bills -- H.B. 1611, H.B. 2650, H.B. 2652, H.B. 2658, H.B. 2659 and H.B. 2662. The Senate Judiciary Committee also approved two measures -- S.B. 1973 and Senate Joint Resolution 66.
Some of the reforms include defining the term "surgery" for purposes of compensation, strengthening the value-added attorney's fees provision, and capping the time for temporary total disability. Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa, said a reduction in the number of workers' comp judges may also be considered coupled with a more equitable distribution of judges between Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
H.B. 2662, as well as S.B. 2232, would move toward privatizing CompSource Oklahoma, the state's nonprofit workers' comp agency. Jason Clark, president and CEO of the organization, said the firm is opposed to selling CompSource to the highest bidder. The sale, he said, would be contrary to Oklahoma law and detrimental to CompSource policyholders and small businesses.
"CompSource insures a large percentage of the state's high-risk, small and startup companies -- businesses that other insurance companies historically have chosen not to write because it simply was not profitable," Clark said. "A sale would adversely impact not only CompSource's policyholders' rates, but other businesses as well because it would eliminate a competitive market."
Sullivan said the court will need to decide the issue of ownership.
"This bill is a tool to get the ownership question answered," he said.
Chamber releases survey. An overwhelming number of employers favor reforming the workers' comp system, according to a recently issued survey by The State Chamber of Oklahoma. The pro-business advocacy organization said three out of four (75 percent) Oklahoma employers said they believed the state's workers' comp system imposes costs on businesses that hurt job growth. Only "access to a skilled workforce" topped workers' comp in the survey of the most important issues facing Oklahoma employers today.
Eighty-two percent of business owners said they would support significant workers' comp reform. In addition, two out of three (66 percent) business owners would support abolishing the current workers' comp court system and changing to an administrative system. Seventy-seven percent of business owners would support candidates who are willing to vote for strong workers' comp reform.
Read more at the WORKERSCOMP ForumTM homepage.
March 15, 2010
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