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Iowa comp reforms would limit benefits for older workers

Iowa legislature

Study bills introduced Monday in the Iowa Legislature would reform a number of provisions in the state’s workers compensation system, including limiting benefits for permanently disabled older workers and blocking comp benefits for workers who were intoxicated at the time of an injury.

The Senate Committee on Commerce on Wednesday recommended passage of Senate Study Bill 1170, sponsored by Sen. Bill Anderson, R-Pierson. House Study Bill 169, sponsored by Rep. Peter Cownie, R-West Des Moines, was scheduled to be considered by the House Committee on Commerce Thursday, according to an agenda posted on the Iowa Legislature website.

The bills would overhaul several portions of Iowa’s workers comp system, including cutting off comp payments to permanently disabled workers at the age of 67, and limiting payments to those injured after the age of 67 to 150 weeks. Further, employees with a permanent partial disability would only be entitled to receive benefits for the number of years in the future they would reasonably be anticipated to work, and if they return to work at the same or greater salary, compensation for earning capacity would end, the bills read.

The reform package also would prevent compensation for injured employees who test positive for alcohol or drugs not prescribed by a doctor or not used as prescribed at the time of injury and when intoxication is the predominant factor in causing the injury. The injured worker would hold the burden of proof to show he or she was not intoxicated at the time of injury or that intoxication was not a predominant factor in causing the injury in order to receive compensation, according to the bill text.

Other provisions of the bills include limiting a worker’s ability to receive compensation if they do not accept an employer’s written offer of temporary work; making an employer responsible only for the portion of an employee’s disability that arises out of the worker’s employment — excluding pre-existing disabilities that arise in the course of employment — and removing liability from employers for paying for medical examinations when an injury is determined not to be compensable.

The bills also address attorney fees paid in comp disputes by limiting the amount on which an attorney can base fees to the amount that would not have been paid to the employee but for the efforts of the attorney.



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