Backers of legislation to allow Oklahoma employers an alternative to workers’ compensation coverage reported on Monday the proposal is expected to be considered in the House of Representatives later this week or next week.
Meanwhile, opponents of the legislation have attacked it as “Obama Comp” and contend it would result in the “federalization” of Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system.
House Bill 2155 was returned to the House after the Senate voted 28 to 17 on April 18 to approve a Senate committee substitute for the legislation, which was authored by House Speaker Kris Steele, R-Shawnee.
Tulsa attorney Steve Edwards, legislative consultant for the Oklahoma Injury Benefit Coalition, which initiated the alternative benefit measure, told WorkCompCentral that HB 2155 is expected to come up next week for a vote on whether to accept or reject the amended version, which is sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman, R-Sapulpa.
The measure would permit qualifying employers with at least one employee to offer an alternative plan to workersâ€™ compensation as long as medical and indemnity benefits are equal or superior to those mandated by workersâ€™ compensation statutes and the alternative plan complies with the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). ERISA plans are regulated by the federal government.
Employers would be eligible to offer an alternative plan if they have either:
— A workersâ€™ compensation experience modifier, as reported by the National Council of Compensation Insurance (NCCI), of “greater than one (1.00) for the preceding Oklahoma workersâ€™ policy year,” or;
— Total annual incurred claims, “as reflected in an NCCI experience modifier worksheet or their workersâ€™ compensation carrier loss runs,” greater than $50,000 in at least one of the three preceding Oklahoma workersâ€™ compensation insurance policy years.
The bill has received support at legislative hearings from business and employer organizations, and has been opposed by organized labor, the property and casualty industry and some attorneys.
OklahomaWorks, in a television advertisement, says HB 2155 “hands over control of some Oklahoma health care matters to the federal government” and is backed by “out-of-state trial lawyers and insurance companies” and urges viewers to contact their representatives to oppose the bill.
On its website, OklahomaWorks describes itself as “a coalition of stakeholders and interested parties committed to protecting and preserving the newly reformed Oklahoma state workers’ compensation laws.”
The website also says the proposed legislation is unnecessary and if passed would lead to higher workers’ compensation costs for small and medium-sized business.
Laura Brookins, executive director of OklahomaWorks, did not respond Monday to the requests for details regarding the organization.