Group self-insurance associations, a loose confederation of diverse
business interests, have "substantially cut costs" for workers'
compensation coverage in Oklahoma since 1982, according to a former
administrator of the State Insurance Fund.
Legislative action in 1981 paved the way for many of the state's
business leaders to pool their liabilities. Thus far, 14 groups -
primarily trade associations - have turned to self-insurance as "an
escape valve to reduce pressure on insurance rates."
Chris Sturn, an Oklahoma City attorney who is active in the
self-insurance movement, says the proliferating groups now provide
options not previously available to employers here. Among the
current participants are such trade groups as the Oklahoma Restaurant
Association, Associated Motor Carriers, the Association of General
Contractors, the Oklahoma Auto Dealers Association, the Retail
Grocers and the Association of County Commissioners.
Sturn, who also served as a judge of the Workers' Compensation
Court, describes the system of self-insurance as "a highly useful
tool." Because it offers attractive incentives for employers to
participate, the system has seen enormous growth over the past five
years. For example, said Sturm, at least 82 percent of the state's
auto dealers have joined forces under the umbrella of a single
Up front benefits include a 15 percent premium discount which
means, in short, impressive savings.
For the year ending last March 31, said Sturm, the program
showed a surplus of $1 million. And, pending approval of the
Workers' Compensation Court, which regulates the group associations,
some $450,000 will be distributed to association members in
"The group health insurance associations treat it as the
employers' money," the attorney said. "Because it is."
Sturm calls it a collaborative effort under the banner of the
Oklahoma Self Insurors Association. The program now underwrites
from 10 to 15 percent of the workers' compensation coverage in the
Apart from the system of self-insurance and its gathering
momentum, the state, by some accounts, has taken steps to curb
costs. Some of those moves, enacted by the legislature in 1985 and
1986, may be on the brink of paying dividends.
Substantive changes in 1986 now compel all cases to be tried on
the weight of the evidence, a procedure viewed broadly as helpful to
employers. The law repealed presumptions placing the burden of
proof on the employers. At the same time, it limits disability
payments to 150 weeks.
Under the old law, the maximum disability period was 300 weeks.
Moreover, injured claimants now must be off the job seven days
before they can receive payment. Other provisions call for
pre-hearing conferences, a procedure calculated to reduce the amount
of litigation. Employers also are free of wrongful discharge
penalties when workers are terminated for refusing to respond to
queries about previous compensation cases.
Not the least of the new provisions is a medical fee schedule
which, according to Sturm, appears to be having considerable impact
toward "putting costs back in line."
The law empowered the court's administrator to devise a fee
schedule and put it in force. …