The full House gave overwhelming bipartisan approval today to a sweeping overhaul of the state workers’ compensation system.
“Simply put, Oklahoma is going to see injured workers get back on the job faster and with reduced medical costs thanks to the extensive reforms in this bill,” said House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee.
Senate Bill 878 rewrites most of the state’s workers’ compensation law and establishes several new guidelines for treating injured workers that will ensure the workers receive proper care and can return to work in a timely manner. The bill also sets up new protocols and guidelines to ensure fair costs are paid for treating on-the-job injuries.
The bill is a major component of a legislative agenda designed to create a favorable business climate in Oklahoma in order to grow the state’s economy and improve quality of life.
SB 878 passed the House, 88-8, and now goes to Gov. Mary Fallin for her signature.
“This is the meaningful, milestone workers’ compensation reform Oklahoma has sought for many, many years,” Steele said. “By passing this bill, the Legislature has sent yet another resounding message that Oklahoma is a place where businesses and individuals can grow and thrive. I could not be more pleased with the determination our public and private sector leaders have shown in achieving this major milestone.”
For the first time in state history, doctors who treat patients through the workers’ compensation system will be required to follow nationally-recognized treatment standards.
“This common sense approach to workers’ compensation will benefit the entire state,” Steele said. “Oklahoma businesses and workers will flourish under these reforms.”
SB 878 also:
- Establishes reimbursement rates for medical providers who treat injured workers;
- Develops a new fee schedule intended to reduce the cost of workers’ compensation medical care by 5 percent;
- Returns the Workers’ Compensation Court to ten members;
- Lessens the involvement of private attorneys in the process;
- Clarifies eligibility for workers’ compensation treatment;
- Requires voluntary mediation to be made available to all claimants;
- Requires that only medical doctors and doctors of osteopathic medicine be allowed to serve as independent medical examiners in workers’ compensation claims;
- Requires independent medical examiners be specialists in the injuries they are diagnosing;
- Prevents doctor-shopping by limiting when injured workers can change doctors.
The bill was authored by Rep. Dan Sullivan, R-Tulsa, and Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore.
“On the job injuries are life-changing experiences. If an Oklahoman is injured on the job, they deserve access to quality health care that is administered fairly for all involved. We are confident we have finally enabled that with this bill,” Sullivan said. “There is no doubt the existing workers’ compensation code in Oklahoma has been a job killer. The cost of our system compared to the states’ surrounding us has hurt Oklahoma’s efforts to attract businesses. Thankfully, that ends now with the passage of this bill.”