The Oklahoma Senate has approved legislation that makes changes to Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation system that lawmakers say preserve and strengthen reforms adopted in 2013.
An increase in benefits paid to injured workers is included among the provisions of House Bill 2367, which previously passed the House. The bill was sent to Gov. Kevin Stitt for his signature.
According to Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Sen. Julie Daniels, the Senate author of the bill, HB 2367 clarifies and secures the 2013 reforms and addressies issues that have arisen since passage of the original bill.
“Since 2013, reforms have been effective in helping injured workers receive timely treatment and get back to work. Oklahoma employers have saved hundreds of millions of dollars. Premiums are lower, fewer cases are filed and employee claims are resolved in less time with fewer appeals. Without compromising reforms all stakeholders negotiated over several months to resolve some pressing issues,” Daniels, a Republican from Bartlesville, said in a Senate media release.
According to the state Senate, highlights of HB 2367 include:
- Increases the total temporary disability (TTD) cap to 70% of the employee’s average weekly wage with a maximum of the state’s average weekly wage;
- Increases the maximum permanent partial disability (PPD) rate to $350/week for two years; an increase to $360/week in 2021 and an extension of the maximum number of weeks to 360;
- Adopts use of the Sixth Edition of the American Medical Association guidelines;
- Brings the Workers’ Compensation Commission in line with several Oklahoma Supreme Court decisions;
- Restructures the Multiple Injury Trust Fund (MITF) to increase the fund’s solvency. The Fiscal Year 2020 budget deal includes a $5 million appropriation to the MITF as part of the solution.
- Includes a reduction in the Court of Existing Claims to one judge from 2020 to 2022 to address remaining cases;
- Calls for the Workers’ Compensation Commission to conduct a study regarding a possible increase in the medical fee schedule and to report to the Legislature in 2020;
- Calls for the current procedural terminology (CPT) codes to be updated every two years.
The Associated Press reported that the bill restricts the eligibility criteria for claims against the Multiple Injury Trust Fund for permanently disabled workers as part of the effort to increase the solvency of the fund.
Workers’ comp attorney Bob Burke told the AP that benefits paid to injured workers will increase by an average of 22% under the bill.
HB 2367 was approved unanimously by the Senate; Gov. Stitt is expected to sign it.
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