Georgia lawmaker seeks to revamp nation's most expensive comp program
Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., has introduced legislation multiple times since 2006 to amend the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act. His latest proposal has been sent to a Senate panel for review.
The current act "needs to be brought into the 21st century," said Bruce Wood, associate general counsel and director of workers' comp for the American Insurance Association. Wood, who called the LHWCA the "nation's most expensive workers' comp program" said the program has remained stagnant while state workers' comp systems have been modernized.
The LHWCA covers an estimated 500,000 workers injured or made ill while employed on the navigable waters of the U.S. who are not covered by state workers' comp or other programs. It is financed by employers and administered by the Department of Labor through the Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation, a component of the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs.
Isakson's bill, called the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act Amendments of 2011, would reform the existing procedures and benefits afforded injured and ill workers. It would adopt best practices on medical treatment and administrative guidelines as they are currently applied in state workers' comp programs to help injured workers get back to work.
According to a bill summary by Ian Greenway, president and owner of LIG Marine Managers, a provider of commercial marine insurance to independent insurance agencies, the bill would accomplish the following:
- Require all treatment to be delivered through provider networks and be consistent with nationally recognized evidence-based guidelines developed and maintained by the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
- Require that work be the major contributing cause of an injury.
- Clarify that workers who are not primarily performing Longshore work on the day of the injury are not covered.
- Change the benefit formula from two-thirds of gross wages to 75 percent of after-tax wages.
- Preclude multiple awards resulting in payment of benefits greater than 100 percent of the maximum benefit rate.
- Broaden the intoxication defense.
- Exclude claims for radiation exposure from federal cargo scanning devices which are not under the control of the employer.
- Repeal the second injury component of the Special Fund.
- Strengthen protections against fraud, abuse and improper payments.
- Strengthen the exclusive remedy by eliminating dual state jurisdiction over Longshore claims.
- Improve administration and eliminate unnecessary litigation.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
May 12, 2011
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