Washington governor signs one bill as lawmakers debate other reforms
Gov. Chris Gregoire has signed legislation aimed at saving more than $200 million over the next four years. At the same time, lawmakers are considering other proposals that could potentially save an additional $1.2 billion in the next two years.
The bill signed last month sets up a statewide network of medical providers, based on certain standards or credentials and who use best practices. Injured workers would be able to choose their physicians from those in the network.
Meanwhile, lawmakers are looking at a variety of other reforms. Voters last year rejected a measure to privatize the state-run system. As of Dec. 31, it had less than $500 million in reserves, according to the Department of Labor and Industries.
Among the proposals being considered is one to allow settlement options for injured workers, something a majority of states provide. The DLI says most of the system's costs come from fewer than 10 percent of all claims and involve workers who are receiving benefits for a prolonged period of time or have lifetime pensions.
The proposal to allow lump-sum settlements would save $1.2 billion in a two-year period, according to an estimate from the Office of Financial Management. Opponents say the measure would result in cost shifting by injured workers who would seek money through other state assistance programs.
A separate package of bills aimed at streamlining the system would save an estimated $450 million in the next six years, according to supporters. The governor was expected to announce yet another proposal for lawmakers to consider.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
April 4, 2011
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