The Pryor Times

Opinion

May 2, 2013

Better for business in Oklahoma

Oklahoma ranks in the top four of the most expensive places for a business to obtain worker’s compensation insurance. In spite of our high costs we have a poor record of getting the injured workers the treatment and rehabilitation they need and back on the job in a timely manner.

Our system is set up so that as soon as a worker files a claim they and their employers become adversaries. They should work together for the benefit of getting both the injured worker the treatment he needs and the employer his important worker back on the job as soon as possible.

Like a lot of physicians, when I was in private practice I stopped seeing worker’s compensation cases. Too often there are lawyers involved and the physician finds themselves being the one caught in the middle between the lawyer and the employer. As a result the majority of worker’s compensation injuries were being handled by a minority of physicians. No one in particular was at fault; it was just the way our system is set up.

I am hopeful that the worker’s compensation reform law that we recently passed will help improve this situation. It should dramatically lower costs to employers, though it may take a couple of years’ experience with the new system to see premiums decrease. It should also help the injured worker get the treatment he needs in a timely manner with much less hassle.

Improving our worker’s compensation system, in my mind, is the single greatest thing we can do to recruit industry and jobs to our state. Many companies have shied away from Oklahoma due to the high insurance rates. Much is made of decreasing our tax rate, but the reality is our state’s overall tax rate is one of the lowest in the nation – even lower than Texas to whom we are often compared. The worker’s compensation reform we passed will make us more competitive in attracting businesses – even more so than lowering the income-tax rate.

Small businesses make up more than  97 percent of all employers in Oklahoma, and employ more than 53 percent of the private-sector (non-government) work force. Lower worker’s compensation insurance premiums will allow them to save money, which can be used for expansion and pay raises for employees.

It was good to see the rains come not only to fill all the farm ponds but also to fill our major lakes. It’s nice when there is enough water to allow the production of hydroelectric power at both Pensacola and Kerr damns. Electricity generated by water is much cheaper that that generated with coal or natural gas.

I can be reached at dougcox@okhouse.gov or (405) 557-7415. Thanks for allowing me to serve as your state representative.

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