Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Officials: OK Needs Fundamental Changes in Workers Comp

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Officials: OK Needs Fundamental Changes in Workers Comp

Article excerpt

Oklahoma businesses are facing increasing workers compensation rates, which some officials say already are among the highest in the region.

When you look at our system, I think you'd have to say that it's pretty poor compared to the rest of the country, said Tony Caldwell, an Oklahoma City certified insurance counselor and workers compensation adviser. I think employers are going to see in the next couple of years that their rates are going to go up because there's nothing fundamentally that's changing the picture of where we stand.

Mike Seney, senior vice president of operations for The State Chamber, said workers compensation insurance is the No. 1 economic issue to most businesses located in Oklahoma, and it remains one of the key economic indicators looked at by out-of-state businesses interested in relocating to the state.

The State Chamber believes that an aggressive risk-management- based workers compensation insurance program will save Oklahoma employers substantial long-term premium dollars and help attract new businesses to our state, Seney said.

To reduce the frequency of workplace injury and provide long- term premium reductions, the program will require individual accounts to agree to several provisions, including written in-house safety programs; workers compensation injury background checks; minimum attendance of one workers compensation seminar annually; a return-to-work (light duty) program; a drug screening program; written injury investigation reports for fraud prevention; and enrollment in a certified workplace medical plan.

People have to get proactive about it, Seney said. But what should be first and foremost in the minds of businesses is having safety programs in place.

If you don't have accidents, you're not going to have work comp claims, he said.

Companies also need to get involved in accidents when they occur, as too many businesses have turned workers compensation into an insurance product. When someone gets hurt on the job, too many employers simply presume insurance will take care of it and they forget about it.

When you forget about it, what you're really doing is forgetting about the employee, Seney said. And the employee, if they're not talked to or communicated with by the employer, and they have questions or issues or fears about medical treatment or bills or how they're going to get paid, they're going to go to an attorney.

And the National Council and Compensation Insurance shows that Oklahoma has a higher-than-average number of claims that involve attorneys. The average claim involving an attorney is higher than one that doesn't, so that, too, drives claims costs and insurance premiums up.

Now, enter the experience modifier.

For a company that is privately insured, most have an experience modifier, which is a number calculated by the NCCI, and is based upon their loss ratio as compared to average in their industry in the state. …

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