Legislative reforms are a 'step in the right direction,' attorney says
With the goal of combating rising workers' comp costs, six states have adopted legislative reforms. A workers' comp attorney says only time will tell whether additional reforms will be necessary.
"Overall, the reforms are designed to help cash-strapped states and employers save on soaring workers' compensation costs," according to Michael Milstein, an attorney with Bryce Downey & Lenkov in Illinois. "While employers from each state believe the reforms could have reached farther, these reforms were a step in the right direction."
Milstein summarized the recent reforms as follows:
- A 30 percent reduction in medical fees employers must pay doctors for an estimated savings of $500 million to $700 million.
- Requires application of the American Medical Association Guides to evaluate impairments, among other factors.
- Caps recovery for repetitive carpel tunnel claims.
- Caps recovery for wage differential claims.
- Establishes a medical network for workers' comp claims.
- Increases benefit caps for totally disabled workers -- up to $155,000 or up to $300,000 for workers who died as a result of a work-related accident.
- Overturns previous court decisions that "eroded the system."
- Ends payments of "unwarranted claims" by raising the threshold required for an incident to be compensable.
- Clarifies that employers are entitled to a credit for preexisting conditions.
- Freezes medical fee schedule for two years at the Dec. 31, 2010, rates.
- Limits employer liability for injuries occurring off company grounds, including those that occur on a break or while participating in social or recreational activities.
- Requires doctors to rate impairments using the sixth edition of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.
- Allows insurer to select treating physician who must agree to perform the services of a treating physician according to the statute.
- Adopts first reform since 1994.
- Caps temporary total disability benefits at 500 weeks.
- Increases cap on temporary partial disability benefits from 300 to 500 weeks.
- Increases death benefit payments to survivors from 400 to 500 weeks.
- Adopts new fee schedule designed to cut medical costs by 5 percent.
- Adopts nationally recognized set of treatment guidelines for work-related injuries.
- Requires judges to render decisions within 60 days.
- Requires governor to appoint new judges next year.
- Saves an estimated $1.1 billion over the next four years.
- Provides reimbursement of half an injured worker's wages to employers who provide temporary work allowing the employee to stay at work while recovering from an injury.
- Creates a single statewide provider network for treatment of injured workers.
- Approves structured settlement agreements for workers 55 years or older beginning in 2016.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
August 11, 2011
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