Five witnesses testified before the Workforce Protections Subcommittee of the House Education and Labor Committee in mid-November. But observers say there will likely be no congressional action directed to the state workers' comp systems anytime soon.
Woolsey said she was particularly concerned about the latest American Medical Association's Guides to Permanent Impairment and what she termed a cost-shifting trend away from state workers' compensation programs to the federal government's medical and disability programs.
Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner Christopher Godfrey testified that his state ultimately decided not to use the 6th edition of the AMA Guides. Attorney W. Frederick Uehlein, an associate editor of the American Medical Association Guides Newsletter, defended the 6th edition and pointed out that "the impairment or medical functionality determined by physicians is not now, nor should it ever be, synonymous with disabilities -- i.e., loss of wages."
John Burton, who chaired the National Commission on State Workmen's Compensation Laws in the 1970s, called for two pieces of legislation. One would enact federal standards "that require states to provide adequate permanent disability benefits to workers who can establish that their disabilities were caused by the workplace using causation standards that do not contain the restrictive provisions adopted by many states since the early 1990s." He also advocated for legislation to treat applications for cash benefits from the Social Security Disability Income program "similar to the current federal policy for Medicare benefits when the patient's need for medical care is due at least in part to a workplace injury or disease."
Political observers in Washington, D.C. do not expect to see action toward such legislation in the upcoming Congress. "That hearing was a political statement before the gavels changed hands," said Jimi Grande, senior vice president for federal and political affairs for the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. "There's not going to be a great appetite to study ways in which you can federalize workers' comp."
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
December 20, 2010
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