Friday, January 22, 2010

Oklahoma Should ‘Fast Forward’ Workers Comp System

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma has an opportunity to “fast forward” how the state provides workers’ compensation benefits, state Rep. Lewis Moore said today.

“We have a provision in place now that allows for an exciting option in how we currently offer coverage for on the job injuries and sickness – 24/7 coverage,” Moore, R-Edmond, said. “It combines the best of both group health and workers’ compensation coverage. Currently, group health insurance covers you when you’re asleep and not at work, or about 16 hours a day. Workers’ comp covers you when you’re at work.

As much as both types of coverage cost, we can’t help but be able to save a great deal of money, give our businesses an opportunity to be much more competitive, reduce the animosity and adversarial relationship promoted by the current system and help more people become insured. By reducing the cost and streamlining the benefits, we will save employees and employers a great deal of time and money.”

Moore has filed House Bill 2886 to make it possible for the Oklahoma State Employees Benefits Council and the Oklahoma State and Education Employees Group Insurance Board to begin a pilot program that state agencies and employers can participate in to take advantage of the 24/7 provision in Title 85.

“If you are hurt playing softball, you go to the doctor and have the injury taken care of,” Moore said. “Whatever deductible you have for health insurance is what you would pay for the injury, regardless of whether it was job-related or not. Supplemental coverage would meet many of the expenses incurred using a benefit bank employers can put into place using their savings. The exclusive remedy provision, for liability protection, covers 24/7 coverage as well.”

Moore said neither employees nor employers are happy with the current workers’ compensation system.

“Employees don’t like the system because it takes too long for their benefits to make their way through it,” Moore said. “Employers don’t like it because of the extra costs.”

Moore noted that a large chunk of the employee benefits portion of the budget could be reduced without hurting state employees coverage if his legislation passes.

“The workers’ compensation industry is no longer as productive as it needs to be for us to be competitive,” Moore said. “We must take care of our workforce and help employers compete. We can be leaders in putting our state at the forefront of providing solutions and do the right thing by all involved.”
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