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Workers’ Compensation Commission decision spurs need for policies, commissioner says

Shawn Ashley, eCapitol
A recent decision invalidating the opt-out provision of the state’s workers’ compensation law means companies currently participating in that part of the law should get comp insurance, Workers’ Compensation Commission Chair Robert Gilliland said Thursday.

At a meeting of the Advisory Council on Workers’ Compensation, Gilliland, an attorney who previously worked in the workers’ compensation field, said companies should follow the recommendation in the commission’s Feb. 26 order to obtain workers’ compensation insurance. In that order, the commission found two portions of the state’s workers’ compensation law, saying the entire opt-out provision of the new work comp system approved in 2013 “is not enforceable.”

Michael Carter, advisory council chair, agreed. An attorney who works in workers compensation, Carter said he would be advising his clients to obtain an appropriate insurance policy.

Under the opt-out provision of the state’s workers’ compensation law, employers are exempt from purchasing a workers’ compensation insurance policy if they provide a plan with comparable benefits on their own. Approximately 65 companies operate such plans and are registered with the Oklahoma Insurance Department.

Gilliland stressed he was not offering legal advice but only repeating what was in the order. When asked what an injured worker should do, Gilliland recommended they consult with an attorney who likely would recommend they file a claim with the commission. Those claims, he said, will be put on hold pending the outcome of a possible review of the commission’s order finding the provisions unconstitutional.

Advisory Council members Angela LeBlanc and Dan Simmons expressed concern that an injured worker covered by an opt-out plan now might have to wait for medical care. “Someone might not get medical treatment while the issue is in limbo,” said LeBlanc.

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