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To the editor: The April 14 article, "Employers, Insurers Must Protect Reforms: Speakers," contains a clearly incorrect statement on page 143 about workers compensation reforms in New Mexico.
New Mexico's Legislature met for 60 days between January and March. While it did consider five reforms, none of them would have reverted to older, more expensive medical fee schedules. According to the Workers Compensation Research Institute, the medical fee schedule in effect at the state Workers Compensation Administration is the sixth-highest in the nation. It is not our goal to develop more expensive medical fee schedules.
New Mexico has a model workers compensation system. In addition to the Business-Labor Coalition on Workers Compensation, state law establishes an Advisory Council on Workers Compensation and Occupational Disease Disablement. Gov. Gary E. Johnson appointed all six members in 1995. Three represent labor.
A measure was introduced in the New Mexico Senate in February for the Advisory Council. It contained five proposals:
Increase temporary total disability from 85% to 100% of the average statewide weekly wage (subject to formula).
Increase the death benefit from $3,000 to $5,000.
Repeal the $5 filing fee that employers pay to the WCA to file copies of their insurance policies.
Extend TTD benefits following maximum medical improvement for not more than 13 weeks.
Establish a clear definition of statutory employer and employee.
The Advisory Council is unanimous in pursuing a return to exclusive remedy following a 1996 New Mexico Supreme Court ruling. Trial attorneys staunchly opposed the statutory employer proposal. After clearing five committees without a negative vote, the 1997 New Mexico reform bill died.
Stephen W. Kennedy
State of New Mexico
Workers Compensation Administration
Editor's note: The incorrect information was presented in an April 2 speech by a National Council of Compensation Insurance executive that Business Insurance covered.
An NCCI spokesman says the error stemmed from a request made to the NCCI to estimate the cost impact of a proposal to suspend use of the fourth edition of the American Medical Assn. impairment guidelines and revert to the third edition, which would have resulted in a more expensive fee schedule. The proposal was subsequently dropped, though that information was not conveyed to NCCI speech writers.