March 24, 2021
by Kevin Anderson

Oregon Legislature Considering Dismantling Self-Insurance in Oregon

Kevin AndersonThe Senate Committee on Labor and Business recently held a public hearing on two concerning pieces of legislation, SB-801 and SB-802. While the hearing initially appeared to be a fact-finding discussion about self-insurance in Oregon, the bills are scheduled for further discussion at the Management-Labor Advisory Committee (MLAC) on March 26th and set for a work session in the Senate committee on March 30th. We have submitted testimony against both amendments, but we need your feedback/testimony on both bills.

SB-801 and SB-802 as drafted require DCBS to study issues related to claim processing generally (801) and related to COVID-19 claims specifically (802). However, two “gut-and-stuff” amendments would replace those bills and would require all self-insured employers in Oregon to contract with SAIF to process their claims (SB-801-1) and would create a presumption of compensability for medical conditions secondary to COVID-19 and allow workers 30 years to file a claim (SB-802-1).

Requiring all self-insured employers to contract through a quasi-state agency certainly raises constitutional concerns. Self-insurance has been central to Oregon’s benefits system and this drastically changes that balance with little to no time for employers and insurers to provide feedback. Additionally, there are benefits to the self-insurance system. Self-insured employers tend to be involved in each claim and have more of an incentive to make sure their employees receive proper medical care and return to work quicker. Self-insured employers also have more flexibility in resolving liens and medical bills instead of having to negotiate such issues with large insurance companies. Self-insured employers also appear to have a high rate of claim acceptance than private insurance, a group left out of this legislation.

The presumption bill also raises issues we discussed at length in 2020. MLAC could not reach a consensus on whether a presumption was even needed as the data collected by DCBS was showing filed claims were being processed appropriately and a new audit system was setup to specifically review COVID-19 claims. This new presumption would allow workers to file claims 30 years from now, without proving they ever had COVID-19, and creates serious issues with how to reserve against claims that far in the future. As we have noted in testimony, the current claim process already takes into consideration secondary effects from COVID-19 and if workers file those claims now, they are entitled to medical benefits for their life under a compensable claim.

There are a lot of issues raised by these bills, but we need the legislators and MLAC members to hear from you about the legislation. If you are interested in testifying or getting involved, please contact me and I can get you that information. You can also email Theresa Van Winkle to get involved with MLAC meetings and/or register here for testimony with the Senate committee.

These bills are being put forward by groups that have also discussed eliminating self-insurance altogether in Oregon and eliminating the Exclusive Remedy provision for self-insured employers. Even if these bills do not pass this year, it is clear further discussion on self-insurance, its benefits to workers, and our system as a whole, will be needed in the months to come.

Please contact me with any questions or concerns at or 503-595-2130.

Posted by Kevin Anderson.