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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Oklahoma Work Comp Opt-Out System Under Legal Attack

The recently enacted, and high innovated cost-savings opt-out program in Oklahoma workers' compensation has come under direct legal attack as being unconstitutional.

On Tuesday, Sen. Harry Coates (R-Seminole) joined Rep. Emily Virgin (D-Norman) and the Professional Firefighters of Oklahoma in filing a challenge against the constitutionality of Senate Bill 1062, the workers’ compensation reform bill passed by the legislature and signed by Gov. Fallin during the 2013 legislative session.

“As a longtime businessman, I recognize that it’s necessary to have workers’ compensation rates as low as possible. In fact, I believe we need a workers’ compensation administrative system, just not the unconstitutional and unworkable system created by Senate Bill 1062.

It’s wrong that a fire fighter or any other injured worker should have to pay back benefits after returning to work. This is just one of many problems with this new law.

Instead, I’d support a bill that would give Oklahoma an administrative system like that in Missouri, which is working very well only a few years after being approved by that legislature. Back in 2005 when Missouri went to an administrative system, The Oklahoman advised the Oklahoma legislature to adopt the Missouri workers’ compensation system. That was good advice!

In 2012, the often-quoted Oregon Study showed that while Oklahoma had the sixth highest workers’ compensation rates in the nation, Missouri had one of the lowest rankings at number 36. Oklahoma was 47 percent ABOVE the national median and Missouri was 14 percent BELOW the study median.
Oklahoma needs to pass the Missouri law with no amendments and no changes. Missouri and Oklahoma have similar constitutional provisions regarding injuries, and the Missouri law has already survived constitutional tests. There is no doubt that their administrative system could work in Oklahoma and reduce rates for businesses, small and large.

I appreciate Rep. Emily Virgin and the Professional Firefighters of Oklahoma for joining me in this effort.”