Chicago, IL – Two of the last three states with court-based workers compensation systems are now closer to going with a more efficient administrative system. The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) supports legislation that has recently passed the Oklahoma and Tennessee state legislatures that would take their workers compensation processes out of the legal system and make them quicker, more efficient and less costly.
Reform legislation has been signed into law by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, and a similar bill is currently under consideration by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin.
“We are very pleased that the Oklahoma and Tennessee legislators have passed bills that will improve their states’ workers compensation systems, and that Tennessee has enacted its reforms into law,” said Trey Gillespie, PCI’s senior workers compensation director. “This legislation will help speed up the resolution of claims while reducing litigation, cutting costs and allowing for better health outcomes. Workers and employers will both benefit.”
If the Oklahoma law is enacted, Alabama will be the only remaining state in the country with a court-based workers compensation system.
The Oklahoma bill proposes the following reforms:
- Replaces the Workers Compensation Court with an administrative dispute resolution system
- Revamps the indemnity benefit system to make it more predictable and easier to administer without the need for attorney involvement
- Allows Oklahoma employers to opt-out of the workers compensation system and administer work related injury benefits to employees through a qualified benefit plan
- Allows Oklahoma employers who remain in the workers compensation system to develop an alternative dispute resolution program subject to the Federal Arbitration Act
The Tennessee legislation will do the following:
- Replaces litigation of claims before the chancery and district courts with an administrative dispute resolution system
- Revamps the permanent disability benefit determinations to make it more predictable while increasing the maximum benefit from 400 weeks to 450 weeks
- Requires the agency to adopt medical treatment guidelines
- Clarifies the three-member panel process for the selection of treating doctors
“The administrative and benefit reforms are of crucial importance to help improve systems that are too litigious, unpredictable, inefficient and costly,” said Gillespie. “An administrative-based system will allow for a less formal dispute mechanism, which reduces the reliance on attorneys, quicker access to the system, faster resolution of disputes, and ultimately, shorter claim durations and lower costs for everyone. We urge Gov. Fallin to sign the Oklahoma bill into law, and thank Gov. Haslam of Tennessee for having already done so.”