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While some states are looking to balance their budgets by making cuts within agencies that oversee workers compensation programs, others have taken a different direction in recent years by modifying their process for workers comp administration and adjudication.
Oklahoma and Tennessee both reformed their workers comp systems in 2013, each including provisions to shift to an administrative process for workers comp administration and dispute resolution rather than a process that relied on the judicial system to resolve claims disputes.
Under an administrative process, the state creates and maintains an agency to oversee the workers comp system and handle dispute resolution. In a judicial review system, comp disputes advance to a local or circuit court system more quickly, said Peter Burton, senior division executive for state relations at the Boca Raton, Florida-based National Council on Compensation Insurance Inc.
“When they try to internalize this process and keep it within the experts who know workers comp law, the thought is the system works quickly, is more efficient, reduces attorney involvement, and the worker gets his or her case resolved a little bit more promptly,” said Mr. Burton, who noted that most states operate under an administrative comp system run by a workers comp commission or within a labor department or industrial accident division.
Internalizing the comp process can reduce inconsistencies caused when multiple state judges issue workers comp rulings with disparate precedents, Mr. Burton said.
State budget proposals that target employee safety programs and agencies, including workers compensation systems, are raising questions about the balance between federal and state oversight of workers comp and safety enforcement under the new presidential administration.