Savings Play Crucial Role in Compensation Reform

Article excerpt

If workers compensation reform legislation this session does not contain what Gov. David Walters deems as a substantial cost-saving element, he will call lawmakers back for a special legislative session, he said Thursday.

"The question is whether I would sign a workers comp bill and take a few modest changes, or hold out for more substantial change," Walters said at an afternoon news conference.

His bottom line is protecting injured workers and saving money for businesses, Walters said. Reforms of the past three years have not addressed rising medical costs, and he was hoping to do so in this year's legislation, he said.

Central to his proposal is introducing managed health care into the workers compensation system. Under managed care, the primary care physician controls the treatment program. Employees would choose from a panel of approved doctors. In the governor's proposal, an employee could choose whether or not to participate in managed care.

The workers compensation reform bill this year is Senate Bill 752, co-authored by Sen. Ben Robinson, D-Muskogee, and Rep. Gary Stottlemyre, D-Tulsa. Stottlemyre is dead-set against managed care, because he said it is a for-profit system which doesn't do justice to employees.

The bill has been in a joint conference committee, where numerous drafts have been executed. The current draft proposal, which does not include managed care, has been given to the governor's staff for review, according to Robinson. Senate conferees would sign off on that version, if the governor finds it acceptable, he said. …