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A large workers compensation bill proponents say will fix problems in Oklahoma’s system for treating injured workers is headed to Gov. Kevin Stitt after unanimously passing the state House on Monday and the Senate in April.
H.B. 2367, 187 pages as posted on the state’s legislative website after months of compromises, addresses changes that would further comprehensive reforms put in place in the state in 2013, according to a legislative analysis.
Among the changes are increases to indemnity benefits, which proponents had argued were among the lowest in the nation, and changes to requirements for what would be considered compensable under the comp code, addressing holes in compensability such as when a worker is injured in an employer-owned parking lot coming or leaving the building or while on a work break in an area owned by the employer. The bill would make both instances compensable.
The bill also restructures the state’s Multiple Injury Trust Fund, which an analysis revealed would not remain solvent without changes to the fund that helps workers who suffer multiple injuries. The bill also allows judges to continue to address Court of Existing Claims cases, which stem from pre-reform disputed comp claims, until 2022 — that court was slated to expire in 2020. Proponents had argued the expiration date needed the extension due to a backlog of old claims.
State Rep. Chris Kannady, R-Oklahoma City, co-author of the bill, could not be reached for comment. However, he told reporters this week he expects the governor to sign the bill.
Lawmakers in Oklahoma this month have introduced 19 bills that would make changes to the state’s workers compensation code.