Seeking to stem the tide of lost jobs and lost hope in Oklahoma, Republican leaders unveiled details of a landmark workers’ compensation reform plan at the State Capitol on Tuesday, January 25.
“I have watched many Oklahomans lose hope in recent years, as job opportunities move to other states,” says Speaker of the House Todd Hiett, R-Kellyville. “We must make significant strides this year. This is a broken system, and it must be fixed.”
The workers’ compensation reform initiative under House Bill 2046 will fix this broken system. The current system is one of the most expensive in the nation – the 12th highest in costs – and it is rife with waste, fraud and legal nightmares. Only one adjacent state has higher costs: Missouri. And other bordering states are much lower.
House Bill 2046 will address four major reforms:
- Increasing benefits for workers
- Limiting lawyer involvement
- Reducing medical costs for workers
- Increasing marketplace competition
Also attending the press conference were State Senate Republican Floor Leader Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City, and State Senator Scott Pruitt, R-Broken Arrow, who will carry the bill through the Senate.
“Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system is a terrible burden on our economy that hurts our ability to attract and retain good jobs,” says Senator Coffee. “It's also an embarrassment. Time and time again, when Oklahoma’s leaders try to seek out new potential employers, they hear that the state's workers’ compensation system is simply too litigious and too expensive.”
“Our workers’ comp reform plan reduces litigation and medical costs, increases worker benefits, and injects competition into the marketplace for workers compensation insurance,” says Senator Pruitt. “This will make workers comp in Oklahoma less costly to employers and better for injured workers.”
Lieutenant Governor Mary Fallin also appeared at the reform announcement. Fallin has been an advocate of serious workers’ compensation reform for years.
“This must be the year for real, comprehensive workers comp reform,” says Fallin. “Because of my role in pushing for these reforms for the past eight years, I frequently hear from business owners and workers who are increasingly frustrated by our lack of progress. They were especially upset last year when a very good reform bill passed the House by a vote of 95-1 and then killed in the Senate. They aren't going to accept excuses in 2005.”
“This is the most important issue facing our state’s economy,” says Representative Fred Morgan, R-Oklahoma City, who will carry the bill through the House. “The current system lines the pockets of lawyers, while hindering business owners and stripping away job opportunities from workers.”