Montana Legislature seeks reforms to remove state from top of the list
Confronted with that fact, lawmakers are looking at ways to curb costs. The state Legislature is considering proposals to address what has been an escalating series of challenges for the workers' comp system for some time.
Montana's accident year combined ratio has been consistently higher than the countrywide average, according to NCCI. In 2008 Montana's was 109 percent compared to the 100 percent countrywide. While that's better than the 27 percentage point difference between Montana and the countrywide average in 2004, it shows there are still issues to be addressed.
"There are high levels of frequency -- higher than most," said Mike Taylor, state relations executive for NCCI." Montana also has higher medical costs."
In terms of frequency, Montana has had higher rates than the countrywide average for all categories. For lost-time claims, NCCI reports Montana's rate was almost double the countrywide average in 2008. Where the countrywide average for frequency of fatal and permanent total disability was 8.4 per 100,000 workers, in Montana it was 20.
"There's the story," Taylor said. "There's also a very high usage of the system."
Among the options legislators have been considering are:
- A change in the permanent partial disability award to injured workers with a class 2 or higher class of permanent impairment, as determined by the second printing of the sixth edition of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. The current law allows PP awards for workers with an impairment rating of more than zero.
- Terminating medical benefits for work-related injuries 60 months after the date of injury or diagnosis of an occupational disease. Currently, medical benefits generally terminate when they are not used for a period of 60 consecutive months.
- Changing the choice of treating physician. The injured worker could designate the treating physician; however, the insurer may designate the treating physician. Current law allows the worker to choose the initial treating physician but must change if the initial treating physician is not affiliated with the managed care organization, unless otherwise authorized by the insurer.
- Change the definition of course and scope to exclude injuries that occur during an employee's break off the employer's work site and where the employee is not performing any duties for the employer.
- Expand the conditions under which future medical benefits may be settled.
Separate legislation developed by a Labor-Management Advisory Council was put on hold in January and will reportedly be amended.The LMAC was created several years ago in response to complaints by employers of higher workers' comp costs.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
February 17, 2011
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