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Workers’ comp reform causing concern

OKLAHOMA CITY – Lawmakers are hashing out a measure that would that would change the way injured workers get benefits in our state.

Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee passed Senate Bill 1062 by an 11-4 vote.

Proponents said the bill takes care of workers while saving companies money.

“Oklahoma employers are paying the sixth highest premiums in the country,” State Chamber Vice President Mike Seney said. “We can’t compete for jobs. We can’t keep plants here. They don’t come to Oklahoma because workman’s compensation costs are too high.”

But attorney for injured workers, Joey Chiaf, said the bill saves companies money at the worker’s expense.

“In almost every instance, this bill, Senate Bill 1062, reduces benefits to working people,” he said. “That’s where the savings is, it’s on the backs of working people in Oklahoma and that’s not right.”

Injured workers showed up to the Capitol Tuesday to hear the House committee debate the bill.

Workers like Dale Thompson, Jr. who was paralyzed while working on a pipeline.

“God pray for them if they do this because they don’t care for people,” Thompson said.

Then there was former Oklahoma Sheriff’s Major John Waldenville.

“I took a bullet right through the eye,” Waldenville said. “You just never know when something’s going to happen.”

These workers said they fear parts of the bill will give employers ways to deny workman’s comp.

Parts they said allow employers to create their own benefit system.

Also, they said the 317-page bill denies medical care if the worker misses two doctor visits.

“What’s going to happen in your life,” Thompson said. “We don’t know. So two appointments? That’s ridiculous.”

The bill now goes back to the House floor for approval.

That is expected to take place in one week.