Minnesota: Labor commissioner outlines proposed changes to state comp system
Sviggum unveiled a 53-page report to the Minnesota Workers' Compensation Advisory Council that outlined his hopes for reforming the state's system. Last year, Sviggum appointed members to four workers' comp advisory work groups. Stakeholders from labor, business, insurance, health care providers, and the legislative branch make up the groups. The work groups are charged with making recommendations to the state's Workers' Compensation Advisory Council, which will, in turn, develop its legislative proposals based on this input.
Sviggum said several factors need to be considered when crafting reforms for the state's workers' comp system, including the impact of the aging workforce, varying work habits and expectations of new generations entering the workforce, the impact of health and wellness programs, and the importance of safety and accident prevention.
"At the same time our attention must continue to focus on medical cost management and treatment utilization with evidence-based procedures as the guide for appropriateness," he said.
In the report, Sviggum recommended lawmakers:
- Target "passive care" and services. Sviggum said reforms should statutorily allow "passive care" therapy, such as acupuncture and chiropractic care, for 24 treatments or 12 weeks, whichever is greater. In addition, the reforms should require a treating physician to make medical referrals and recommendations for further passive care therapy after the initial treatment period, he said.
- Raise the bar on safety. If an employer's workers' comp experience rating is 1.0 or greater, Sviggum said the reforms should ensure that the employer is required to have an annual safety inspection and report the findings to the department within 30 days.
- Limit independent medical exams. Sviggum said the reforms should limit independent medical examination to one per accident and not one per medical specialty. In addition, they should require the insurer to pay for only one independent medical examination, he said.
"If an injured employee prevails in a medical dispute, he or she is able to recoup independent medical examination costs from the insurer if the employee paid for an additional independent medical examination," Sviggum said in the report.
- Streamline litigation. Sviggum said the reforms should require workers' comp judges to render a written decision within 30 days of the hearing or within 120 days if briefs are filed.
- Limit comp benefits for illegal workers. Sviggum recommended that employers only provide medical care and services benefits to an illegal worker who is injured.
- Increase benefits for employees who don't use attorneys. Sviggum's recommendations would increase "take home" benefits for injured workers who avoid attorney's fees through early resolution. If an employee resolves his claim within 30 business days without attorney representation, the worker would be entitled to an additional 10 percent of the total claim.
March 9, 2009
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