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Okla. Workers Comp Program Reformed

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LAWTON Okla_ Injuries in Oklahoma workplaces will no longer require a long-term process through the courts; at least that is the plan after Workers' Comp reform was passed by the state legislature this year. 

To help employers and consultants get a better understanding of the new law, the Oklahoma Insurance Department has been touring the state giving seminars. Tuesday, they came to Lawton. Deputy Commissioner of Workers' Comp Denise Engle, and she said the process is going to get easier and faster. The goal is to not only benefit the employer but the employee as well.

"Well, I think it's a win/win for both," Engle said. "The idea is to make an easier process that's more accessible."

Engle said under the current model that the process is so difficult that many cases result in both sides turning to lawyers for help. She said the old system made simple difficult and that Workers' Comp is now much more efficient.

"Truly, Workers' Compensation is just a benefit delivery system," Engle said. "The benefits are owed, and the benefits should be paid.  If there is a dispute, there should be a fair and equitable process to address those disputes."

Kelley Ray, Human Resources Director for the parent corporation 7News, Drewry Broadcasting, agrees that the new plan benefits both sides.

"It makes it much easier to get the claims process, get the medical care that the employee needs, and makes sure it's a managed care system where private insurance and Workers' Comp system work together," Ray said.

Ray has handled claims in Oklahoma and Texas. Oklahoma's new law implemented some of the elements of the Texas law. From Ray's experience, the cases in Texas were easier to handle.

"It's just simpler, and I think the employees end up better off in the long run," Ray said.

The new plan also borrows from the system in Arkansas, which, like Texas, has had premium costs per worker at just under $300, while Oklahoma reached $830. Ray said that the change from a court system to an administrative system will be cost beneficial to employers.

"The costs are going to be more predictable," Ray said. "We won't have subjective jury decisions that can often be far more expensive for employers."

If you are thinking of trying to scam the new system, you just may want to think twice. The new plan carries out a tough punishment for Workers' Comp fraud.

"If a person were to be convicted of Workers' Compensation claim fraud, that would be considered a felony," Ray said.

The new plan does not take effect just yet. The starting date is set for February 1, 2014. Also, if you want to do some of your own research on the new law, you can do that at www.oid.ok.gov.

 

 

 

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