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Louisiana lawmakers on Friday introduced three bills that would amend workers compensation code, providing a swath of guidelines for return-to-work rehabilitation services, cash benefits for firefighters who suffer hearing loss, and regulations for medical payments for injured workers.
H.B. 661, sent to the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, is a comprehensive bill that provides payers and injured workers guidelines for seeking rehabilitation services, including a provision that would require payers and employers to start the return-to-work assessment process at the request of either party within 30 days “regardless of whether the employee has reached maximum medical improvement or has been released to restricted duty,” the bill states.
That bill would strike out state law that requires return to work “with a minimum of retraining, as soon as possible after an injury occurs” and calls for work “suited to his education and marketable skills, through job placement, or on-the-job training or a training program as determined through a vocational rehabilitation assessment provided by a licensed rehabilitation counselor.”
The bill also clarifies that when an injured worker refuses to participate in vocational rehabilitation that the employer or payor may reduce weekly compensation by fifty percent for each week of the period of refusal by first “requesting a hearing,” and not immediately as stated in current law.
In adding guidelines for training, the bill “provides that if a licensed rehabilitation counselor believes that additional education or training is required to enable the employee to earn at least 90% of his previous average weekly wage, the counselor may recommend a training or education program for up to 52 weeks.” Additional time for training or education may be granted at the discretion of the insurer or upon order of the court, the bill states.
Lawmakers in Louisiana are also considering S.B. 370, which would add indemnity benefits to the medical benefits already provided to firefighters who suffer hearing loss, and S.B. 408, which provides guidance on medical payments for injured workers that would keep payments within reimbursement guidelines in current state law. Both were also sent to committee.
A bill that would add post-traumatic stress disorder to the list of injuries that are compensable for injured public employees awaits a signature from Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.