Guest Editorial: February marked the 3rd anniversary of the Oklahoma Legislature’s reform of the workers’ compensation system and the establishment of the Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC), as an administrative agency of the State.
The system was designed to reduce litigation, streamline processing of claims, and control medical costs through more efficient and timely delivery. Good News: it is working as promised.
All injury cases after February 1st, 2014 are the responsibility of the WCC; older cases remain with the Court of Existing Claims (CEC), which is currently scheduled to cease operations in 2020. The WCC operates an office in Tulsa as well as Oklahoma City.
While there are always challenges and potential improvements, the anniversary provides reasons to celebrate reforms. Among successes is a much more efficient and timely delivery of medical care to injured workers. This has led to lower costs and better medical outcomes for injured workers which gets them back to work and full-pay sooner.
Additionally, the WCC in 2015 saw a 57% reduction in the total number of claims filed. The WCC added Dr. Jay Cannon as Medical Director, a position which the Court system did not have, to further improve medical outcomes for injured workers. The WCC also operates a counseling office, to inform and respond to all parties in an injury claim.
Premium costs for workers’ compensation coverage before reforms were skyrocketing and landed Oklahoma as the 6th highest premium loss costs in the nation according to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI).
Oklahomans are now seeing major reductions of workers’ compensation insurance premiums by the tune of $168 million on total premiums paid between the years of 2013-2015.
From 2012 through 2016 Oklahoma enjoyed the largest percentage premium loss cost reductions in the nation and Oklahomans should expect to see the savings continue in coming years. These savings highlight the better business climate developing in the state and make a real impact for businesses located within the state and potential out-of-state businesses looking to relocate or expand.
Overall, as Tulsans reflect on this 3rd Anniversary of reform, they can take pride in the positive trend toward an environment in Oklahoma where workers and employers alike can thrive. We have lowered costs and increased employment opportunity in Oklahoma.