Okla. House Staff Estimates Ombudsman Program Would Cost $2 Million

By Francis-Smith, Janice | THE JOURNAL RECORD, March 4, 2005 | Go to article overview

Okla. House Staff Estimates Ombudsman Program Would Cost $2 Million


Francis-Smith, Janice, THE JOURNAL RECORD


The ombudsman program included in House Bill 2046 would cost about $2 million to create, according to a fiscal impact report prepared by staff members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

On the other hand, the program may save the state $100 million, said Rep. Fred Morgan, R-Oklahoma City, one of the authors of HB 2046.

Some people have put out a study - a flawed study, I believe - that says it may cost as much as $40 million, Morgan told members of the House of Representatives on Thursday. You have a fiscal report in front of you that shows it will cost about $2 million.

House Bill 2046 would set up an ombudsman program within the state Insurance Department. Once an employee has missed seven consecutive days of work related to an injury for which their employer has filed a notice of injury, called a Form 2, at both the Insurance Department and the Workers' Compensation Court, the ombudsman program would kick in. An ombudsman would contact both parties to see if they need help coordinating benefits or resolving conflicts.

An analysis of HB 2046 by local attorneys Bob Burke and Tim Cooley estimates that the ombudsman program would cost taxpayers about $2.4 million a year. The attorneys' analysis also estimates the program would cost insurance companies and employers up to $45 million in additional costs for having attorneys represent them during the mandatory mediation phase before a case could go to Workers' Compensation Court.

Though the attorneys estimated that employers, encouraged by the new ombudsman system, would be more apt to file an injury report, roughly doubling the amount of Form 2s filed each year from the current 60,000 to 120,000, House staff said that level of increases is highly unlikely.

Rather, the Workers Compensation Court estimates that Form 2s are filed for between 60 percent and 70 percent of all injuries - not half, as Burke and Cooley's report estimates. If employers filed a Form 2 for every injury, House staff estimates the annual number of filings could reach 95,000. …

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