Oklahoma rate decrease approved; commissioner seeks more reforms
Doak and other officials credited recently approved legislative reforms for the decrease. Among its provisions, S.B. 878 promotes mediation over litigation of workers' comp disputes, sets a new medical fee schedule aimed at reducing medical costs by 5 percent, and returns injured workers back to work faster by providing physical and vocational rehabilitation services.
Research done for the state's chamber of commerce said workers' comp premiums in Oklahoma rose from ninth highest nationally in 2008 to fourth highest by 2010, which officials said put the state at a disadvantage. Several surrounding states, including Kansas, Colorado, and Arkansas, were listed among the least expensive states in terms of workers' comp premiums.
Doak said that despite the passage of S.B. 878, he hopes further workers' comp reforms are sought to reduce systemic delays that result in more quickly rendering appropriate care to injured employees while expediting the process to reduce employer costs.
He outlined the following as his future goals for workers' comp reforms:
- Further encouraging alternative dispute resolution in place of litigation when a case cannot be otherwise resolved.
- Continuing to upgrade the counselor's program to assure those presently engaged in a workers' comp case that their complaints or concerns are being conscientiously addressed.
- Providing support and encouragement for the Workers' Compensation Court's administrator in his ongoing upgrades to the state workers' comp system website, making it more interactive and user-friendly, and increasing efficiencies by permitting more of the process to be accomplished electronically.
- Exploring equivalent alternative systems designed to efficiently deliver benefits equaling or exceeding the benefits mandated by state law while allowing for resolution of disputes outside the current court system.
"I believe Oklahoma can build upon this initial success and achieve lasting reform of the state's workers' compensation system, reform that benefits employers and employees alike," Doak said.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
October 6, 2011
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