By Shawn Ashley, eCapitol

The Workers’ Compensation Commission took action Thursday that will result in assessments for the Option Insured Guaranty Fund and the Option Self-Insured Guaranty Fund.
Workers’ Compensation Commission Director of Insurance Services Stormy Moore reported Thursday that each fund has a balance just below $50,000. “That is well under the amount at which (the commission) is required to have an assessment,” she told the commissioners.
Moore said the minimum balance at which an assessment is not required is $1 million for each fund.
Under the terms of the workers’ compensation reform measure approved by lawmakers and signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin in 2013, the assessment rates are established by statute:
* For the Option Insured Guaranty Fund, the rate is 2 percent of all gross direct premiums written during each quarter of the calendar year for insurance covering a benefit plan after deducting return premiums, unabsorbed portions of any deposit premiums, policy dividends, safety refunds, savings and other similar returns paid or credited to policyholders.
* For the Option Self-Insured Guaranty Fund, the rate is 1 percent of the total compensation for permanent partial disability awards paid out during each quarter of the calendar year by the participating employers.
The funds are designed to provide benefits for injured workers if their employer or an insurance company cannot meet its benefit obligations.
The commission did not vote to impose the assessments, but by voting to find the balances were less than the statutory minimum, the commission’s action automatically triggered the assessments, Moore and Senior Assistant Attorney General Neal Leader indicated.
In other business Thursday, the commissioners also approved a proposal that would allow a reviewing attorney in a compliance investigation to recommend bifurcating the proposed judgment and penalty assessment. The move, commission attorney Lindsey Christopher said, could help the compliance division to incent employers to obtain workers’ compensation insurance when they do not have it.
Christopher said current policies require the finding of non-compliance with the insurance requirement to be combined with a fine. The new policy, she explained, would permit them to find an employer in non-compliance and to issue the penalty separately at a later date. When the two actions are done simultaneously, she added, the penalty becomes an obligation to the state by the employer “…and that limits what we can to reduce it.”
Chair Robert Gilliland said he believed the commission should take whatever steps are necessary to incent employers to obtain workers’ compensation insurance.
Christopher reminded the commissioners that the change simply provided another option for those involved in the compliance efforts and that combined non-compliance findings and penalties findings still could be issued.

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