The Oklahoma Legislature enacted the Oklahoma Employee Injury Benefit Act (the “Oklahoma Option”) in 2013, which became effective in 2014. But the Oklahoma Supreme Court decided in September 2016 that their unique state constitution prohibits employers from having any choice in how they take care of injured workers.
Every worker must have the exact same injury benefit package, without regard to whether that package is efficient or performing well. The Oklahoma Option also failed because it included “exclusive remedy” protection, preventing injured workers from bringing lawsuits for employer negligence. In contrast, the Texas Constitution supports innovation and competition, and employers sponsoring Texas injury benefit programs do not have exclusive remedy protection from worker lawsuits.
The court case that struck down the Oklahoma Option was also interesting because it did not even involve an on-the-job injury. And the data from this two-year experiment is impressive.
ARAWC produced an Oklahoma Option Performance Report in 2016:
- A diverse group of big and small employers elected the Oklahoma Option,
- Improved medical outcomes and return to work for injured workers,
- Dramatically fewer employee disputes, and
- Better benefits paid to most workers.
So, in spite of all the stories about bad things that “could or might” happen under Texas or Oklahoma injury benefit programs, the facts demonstrate very good results. ARAWC welcomes further, independent research into program results, and supports continued innovations that deliver better medical outcomes, benefit improvements for disabled workers and cost savings.