In 2013, the administrative Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) replaced the Workers’ Compensation Court. Business communities throughout Oklahoma hailed the decision as fixing a system seemingly broken beyond repair.
Fast forward four years after state lawmakers passed the legislation. Evidence is building that the reforms themselves are now broken. Many claim that the law went too far in the other direction. Multiple reports claim that benefits paid per $100 of covered wages were among the fastest declining in the country.
The WCC has also not fared well in courts with many claiming that the bill contained provisions that were bad for workers. In addition, 38 provisions were found unconstitutional, inoperable or invalid.
Perhaps the most significant ruling came from the Oklahoma Supreme Court in September of 2016. The state’s highest court struck down the opt-out act that allowed companies to forego workers’ compensation coverage if they provided a separate benefits plan.
State Chamber of Oklahoma Vice President of Governmental Affairs Jonathan Buxton, one of the bill’s authors, claims that the system remains intact in spite of the rulings. It continues to function with fewer claims, lower costs, and better outcomes for employees.
Claims are significantly down from once-historic levels. However, the past two years saw claims trending up to 7,676 in 2016, an increase of 6,331 in 2015 and 3.541 in 2014.
Costs are also down 21 cents per $100 from 2010 to 2014. However, total workers’ comp benefits paid per $100 of covered wages were down 52 cents.
Solutions are pending as several bills have been submitted for consideration in the state legislature. The objective is to clean up language while streamlining administrative processes.