Tuesday, December 13, 2011

OK ERISA Option Gets Big Boost

The reality that Oklahoma may be the first state in the nation with an alternative work injury program option besides Texas just picked up tremendous steam when Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa, asked that legislation dealing with workers’ compensation be drafted this past week.

According to the WorkCompCentral News report this morning, Bingman's office said they could confirm that Bingham had asked that legislation dealing with workers’ compensation be drafted, but could not confirm any details regarding the proposal -- including who might carry the bill.

But Becky Robinson, chairwoman of the Oklahoma Injury Benefit Coalition (OIBC), told WorkCompCentral that Bingman has asked the Senate staff to draft a proposal for an alternative plan. She said the coalition is “excited to have (Bingman) involved and championing these efforts on behalf of employers in the state of Oklahoma.”

Mike Seney, senior vice president of operations, for the Oklahoma State Chamber, told WorkCompCentral on Monday that the chamber and coalition representatives met last week to discuss "how to do this."

The organizations have talked with Bingman on the proposal, and a bill is "definitely in the hopper," Seney said -- although there are no final decisions yet on the legislation. The language of the bill will need to be finalized and reviewed, Seney said.

Under the OIBC plan employers would be allowed to opt out of the state workers' compensation system only if their plans provide benefits that meet or exceed those that employees would receive under work comp.

OIBC was organized this spring by businesses which contend Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system is too expensive, too litigious and too difficult to navigate for employers and injured workers. Oregon's biennial work comp cost survey had Oklahoma fourth most expensive in the nation.

Many OIBC members also operate as "non-subscribers" in Texas with ERISA plans, and their enthusiasm is driving the ERISA option in Oklahoma.

The OIBC option improves upon the Texas model by requiring an employer to participate in the current state system or to have a qualifying alternative in place, according to OIBC members.

Friday was the deadline for Senate and House of Representatives members to request bills, which must be introduced by Jan. 19. The 2012 legislative session starts on Feb. 6.workers compensation, work comp, injured worker 

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