Oklahoma: Overhaul of comp system complete, heads to governor
The four pieces of legislation -- H.B. 2650, H.B. 2652, H.B. 1611 and S.B. 1973 -- were negotiated during the legislative session with leaders in both parties, the executive branch, and other stakeholders. Lawmakers estimate that together the bills will save businesses at least $60.5 million.
"These reforms are common sense changes that will improve fairness in the system for workers while also driving down costs for Oklahoma employers," said Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa, and chairman of the House Economic Development Committee. "Cost reductions within the system will help spur economic growth and development in our state and will inevitably create jobs."
A major component of the reforms is a restructuring of the Workers' Compensation Court. Under the legislation, the number of judges will be reduced to eight from 10; the Senate must confirm all judges; judges must have no less than five years workers' comp experience; judges will be restricted to one eight-year term; and five judges will be permanently assigned to Oklahoma City and three to Tulsa. Former judges may reapply after three years off the court but must go back through the Judicial Nominating Commission.
Other reforms include a cap on the partial payment disability rate at $323 per week for five years; a limit on permanent total disability to 100 percent Social Security retirement age or 15 years, whichever is longer; the requirement that all claims adjusters have six hours of continuing education on the Workers' Comp Act; and the ability of the state Supreme Court to review workers' comp claims.
The legislation also tightened up definitions of a work-related activity for workers' comp purposes, as well as definitions of "major cause" and "objective medical evidence." The reforms also clarify light-duty work and an employee's refusal to participate and require the state to set up a task force to look at vocational rehabilitation for injured workers.
Read more at the WORKERSCOMP ForumTM homepage.
June 28, 2010
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