Workers’ compensation legislation in the offing
Shawn Ashley, eCapitol

Lawmakers will be asked to consider a new piece of workers compensation legislation when they return to the Capitol for the 2016 session, members of the Workers’ Compensation Commission and the Self Insurance Guaranty Fund Board were told Tuesday.

Patrick Gaines, representing the Oklahoma Self-Insurers Association, said he recently participated in a meeting with representatives of the State Chamber, Workers’ Compensation Commission and Insurance Department concerning what he called a “comprehensive bill.”

The bill would affect the guaranty fund, he explained, because it will address the use of money by the fund for administrative purposes and provide protection to the fund to make sure the Legislature does not take any money from the fund that appears to be excess.

Self-insured employers and group self-insurance associations pay an assessment into the guaranty fund. If the employer or association is unable to pay a workers’ compensation award, payments are made by the Self Insurance Guaranty Fund Board from the fund.

The board’s third party administrator, for example, reported Tuesday the fund has a balance of approximately $5.0 million after liabilities of $1.8 million are subtracted from its cash balance of $6.8 million.

Gaines said Sen. Brian Crain, R-Tulsa and vice chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, will be the author of the bill, which had not been filed at press time. He said the bill also will include language concerning the Oklahoma Option. The option allows employers to opt-out of the workers’ compensation system as long as they establish a plan that offers similar benefits to injured workers. One of the concerns, said Gaines, is how the guaranty fund and option programs would interact.

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