Once More into the Breach: The Path to Effective Workers’ Compensation Reform in Oklahoma
As observers of Oklahoma’s public-policy scene are keenly aware, the field of workers’ compensation reform is littered with the remains of failed reforms of years past. Why do our efforts to reform the workers’ compensation system repeatedly disappoint? Because we refuse to address the chief structural feature of our system—its conception and organization as a judicial system. Conceiving of workers’ compensation claims as legal causes of action, rather than employee benefits administered by the administrative branch of state government, places excessive control of the administration of the system in the hands of the judiciary. Oklahoma will not succeed in implementing the reforms necessary to reduce costs until it does what every state except Oklahoma and one other has done—transforms its system to one that is primarily administrative, with a more limited role for the judiciary. This paper lays out the best legal and structural path for finally implementing comprehensive reform in Oklahoma.