| January 23, 2012

Lt. Governor offers workers’ comp reform ideas

The problems with Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system are well known. According to the latest edition of Rich States, Poor States: ALEC-Laffer State Economic Competitiveness Index, Oklahoma ranks a woeful 47th among the 50 states, with average workers’ compensation costs of $2.87 per $100 of payroll.

Next month OCPA will release a report outlining a path to effective workers’ compensation reform. But we’re not the only ones taking an interest in this subject.

After traveling the state and hearing from business owners in all 77 counties, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb is convinced that workers’ compensation reform is important. In a new report he suggests appointing conservative judges to the workers compensation bench, doing more to combat fraud, and creating coverage options for businesses.

Our workers’ compensation system was created as a court of exclusive remedy from the uncertainty of lawsuits in district courts should any worker be injured. The workers’ compensation system has resulted in mandate after mandate. Currently, everyone is forced to participate in the same system and it is almost guaranteed that everyone’s rates will arbitrarily increase. Ours is a uniform system for businesses that are not all uniform. Businesses desire alternatives that would give them more latitude. By having options, we may be able to encourage companies to expand, hire more people, and reinvest in Oklahoma. Oklahoma’s wide range of industries should not be forced into a one-size-fits-all system. It makes no sense for a business with heavy machinery and a business call center to be hamstrung and hindered in a uniform system.

Reform takes time (how many years did the Right to Work debate rage?), but as the workers’ comp discussion continues, these ideas are worthy of consideration.

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