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Lawsuit says state comp program puts taxpayers on the hook


Oklahoma's Consolidated Workers Compensation Program for public employees “has placed taxpayers at risk,” according to a lawsuit filed in Oklahoma County.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in the District Court of Oklahoma County by four attorneys including Oklahoma City-based Bob Burke, who has also challenged workers comp reforms passed in 2013, argues that the program creates an “unsound financial plan for self insurance.”

Administered by Oklahoma's Office of Management and Enterprise Services, the Consolidated Workers Compensation Program took effect following the 2014 passage of a bill that established a “professional risk management program” for all state agencies.

A spokesman for the office said in an emailed statement that it's “confident in the program's legality.”

According to the lawsuit, however, allowing public employees to prosecute their claims in a state district court rather than through the Workers' Compensation Commission and allowing state agencies to purchase large-deductible workers comp coverage is unfair to taxpayers.

“For example, workers compensation coverage for the Office of the Governor has a $1 million deductible,” the lawsuit states. “Because the appropriated budget for the Office of the Governor does not contain funds for the payment of compensable workers compensation claims, taxpayers are put at risk because any funds expended for compensable claims will ultimately be a liability of the state's General Revenue Fund.”

The Office of Management and Enterprise Services spokesman said in the statement that “the attorney general's office has advised OMES that the program is legally sound. Furthermore, the Workers' Compensation Commission is fully aware of the state's program and obtains coverage for its employees through it.”

The lawsuit notes that following the 2013 passage of the CompSource Mutual Insurance Company Act, which privatized the state's former workers comp fund, many state agencies didn't renew traditional workers comp policies with CompSource, and other insurers became part of the Consolidated Workers Compensation Program.

The attorneys are requesting that the Office of Management and Enterprise Services be ordered to file an application for self-insurance with the Oklahoma Workers' Compensation Commission, purchase a traditional workers comp policy from CompSource, or apply to become an insurance company with statutorily mandated capital and surplus, according to the lawsuit.