Oklahoma Governor Assembles Work Comp Group

May 11, 2004

The Oklahoma House of Representatives Media Division reported that Governor Brad Henry has established a work group to examine pending workers’ compensation legislation in an effort to reach consensus on a reform package. The group consists of legislators, business owners, insurance industry representative, attorneys and others with expertise in the issue.

“Because no consensus has developed on workers’ comp legislation, I thought it was important to pull the stakeholders together to see if we can hammer out a good reform package,” Governor Henry said. “My charge to them is to work toward legislation that cuts costs for businesses and improves benefits for injured workers.”

In order to draft an effective reform package, the governor is asking the group to review the workers’ comp laws in the 10 lowest-cost states in the country, particularly any recent statutory changes, to determine what would improve worker benefits and reduce business costs in Oklahoma.

“I conducted a similar review process to draft my tort reform initiative,” noted the governor. “I think such an approach would yield positive results on workers’ compensation reform as well.”

Governor Henry also wants the panel to examine the impact uninsured Oklahomans have on comp costs. Industry observers believe Oklahoma’s high percentage of uninsured residents increases comp claims because uninsured employees are more likely to seek medical treatment through their employer. The governor believes his program to provide medical coverage to uninsured Oklahomans will help reduce comp costs for business.

The governor began assembling the work group several weeks ago after it became apparent that no legislative consensus had developed behind any single proposal. Governor Henry said he is hopeful the group will be able to find common ground before the end of the legislative session.

Work group members include:

• Sen. Jerry Smith (R-Tulsa)
• Sen. Richard Lerblance (D-McAlester)
• Rep. Jari Askins (D-Duncan)
• Rep. Chris Hastings (R-Tulsa)
• Mike Seney – State Chamber of Commerce
• Jim Curry – AFL-CIO
• Larry Mocha – Businessman and former president of State Chamber
• Bill Vassar – Attorney for injured workers
• Brandon Burton – Attorney for injured workers
• John Oldfield – Defense attorney for business
• Tenal Cooley – Defense attorney for business
• Richard Tippit – OG+E energy corporation and representative of self-insured entities
• Dan Simmons – Businessman/Comp Choice
• Terry McCullar – President and CEO of Comp Source Oklahoma (formerly State Insurance Fund)
• Blake Virgin – Businessman/Coysco

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