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Senator Urges Workers Comp Rate Cut, Cites NCCI Recommendation, Positive Comp Statistics

Oklahoma business should be in line for another reduction in workers compensation rates when state regulators conduct their annual rate review next month, according to a state legislator who authored workers comp reform legislation this year.

Senator Brad Henry noted that the latest workers comp statistics indicate that costs are continuing to decline in Oklahoma, a fact also acknowledged by insurance industry representatives.

"The evidence in favor of another workers comp rate cut is overwhelming. That should make the job of state regulators pretty easy. They'll just have to decide how large the reduction should be," said Senator Henry.

The statistics, cited in a recent report by a member of the Oklahoma Advisory Council on Workers Compensation, documented several positive trends in the comp arena.

  • Workers comp claims are down by 28 percent since 1994;

  • Lawyer involvement in comp cases has declined by 20 percent since 1994;

  • The number of permanent partial disability awards has declined by 30 percent since 1994;

  • The average PPD award has declined by 11 percent since 1994. In 1994, PPD orders totaled more than $100 million. In 1999, they totaled just under $65 million;

  • Even though state employment has risen steadily since 1994, workers compensation claims have decreased.

"Those kinds of statistics are great news for Oklahoma businesses. They tell the story of an improving workers comp market and a positive economic climate. That should translate into lower insurance rates for business owners," said Senator Henry.

Another factor that is expected to reduce workers comp costs is SB 1414, the Special Indemnity Fund bailout bill authored and passed by Senator Henry this year. The American Insurance Association touted the legislation as the most significant reform accomplishment of the 2000 session.

The State Board for Property and Casualty Rates is scheduled to meet on September 7th to consider evidence in favor of a rate reduction. The organization that represents the insurance industry, the National Council on Compensation Insurance, has already filed documentation acknowledging the need for a slight rate reduction. Officials with NCCI have also indicated that they may ultimately ask for a larger cut if the expected savings from SB 1414 materialize.

"I think it's pretty significant that the insurance industry has acknowledged that some kind of rate cut is in order. It signals just how effective our workers compensation reform programs have been," said Senator Henry.

State regulators have approved four rate cuts in the past five years. The reductions were spurred in large part by a number of workers compensation reform packages approved by the Oklahoma Legislature. They have been credited with driving down costs through the increased use of independent medical examiners, restrictions on attorney fees, tougher fraud enforcement, job safety programs and the introduction of medical cost containment and managed care.

"We've done everything we can to set the stage for another rate cut. I don't think there's any question that Oklahoma businesses deserve another reduction in comp premiums," said Senator Henry.

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Senate Communications Division - (405) 521-5605