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Workers comp reforms covering a variety of issues have been passed or are under consideration in numerous states. Below is a roundup of recent laws and legislation.
California Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law last year an anti-discrimination bill that makes clear that a worker can't be prohibited from receiving all workers compensation benefits solely because of his or her citizenship or immigration status. The law overrides previous legislation that was considered discriminatory and left out at least two specific benefits: the state's Uninsured Employers Benefits Trust Fund and the Subsequent Injuries Benefit Trust Fund.
Lawmakers are studying the fiscal impact of three pieces of legislation. S.B. 134 would extend workers comp benefits to police and fire personnel diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their jobs. S.B. 225 proposes a 15% increase in allowed radiology services. H.B. 5449 would allow an injured worker to sue his or her employer in civil court rather than Workers Compensation Court if their claim were unreasonably rejected or delayed.
Lawmakers continue to block Gov. Bruce Rauner's workers comp reforms to 2011 legislation. The governor has argued that the changes would put Illinois in line with other states in costs. In April, H.B. 6428 was proposed, saying injured public or nonprofit workers would bear “the burden of showing, by a preponderance of the credible evidence” that on-the-job injuries “are the major contributing cause” of a medical condition or injury to receive comp. It was referred to committee.
Lawmakers in March passed legislation to provide workers comp for firefighters who develop work-related cancers. Under H.B. 216, a firefighter would have to demonstrate exposure to a known carcinogen while on the job.
Lawmakers faced heat in February from labor unions and Democrats after failing to move forward on three bills changing the processing of claims, the way leaders of the state's workers comp commission are selected and ending deductions from a retiree's Social Security benefit from the amount paid for their comp claim.
Signed by Gov. Susana Martinez in March, S.B. 214 says intoxicated workers proven to have been at fault for their injury can have benefits reduced 10% to 90%. Employers cannot file a claim with their insurer if they were aware of the impairment and did not take action. Employers also must have a drug and alcohol policy. If the worker refuses post-injury testing, he or she could lose all indemnity payments. Regardless of the test results, injured workers remain entitled to covered medical costs and, in the case of death, death benefits for families.
In April, Gov. Andrew Cuomo formed a temporary business-regulation council that will review the state's business practices, including workers comp and disability insurance, and make recommendations by June for the fall legislative session. The group will recommend how the state can reduce the cost of doing business.
Firefighters who develop certain types of cancer would be presumed to be entitled to workers comp, according to S.B. 27 that the state Senate passed in April. The legislation aims to put Ohio in line with 30 other states that presume firefighter cancers are work-related.
H.B. 1800 was introduced in 2015 to, among other changes, implement workers comp treatment guidelines to control medical costs, mitigate the frequency of surgery and reduce the use of addictive pharmaceuticals. The legislation was sent to committee.
People with more than one job can collect workers comp benefits based on all the work they no longer can perform after being injured, rather than just the income lost from the job where they were injured. The bill was signed into law in February.
Enacted in February, the 2015 Wisconsin Act 180 eliminates workers comp indemnity and survivor benefits for injured or dead workers proven to have caused their own injury due to intoxication. Medical costs remain unchanged. The law increases disability payments and stipulates that workers who wish to return to work part-time for retraining will not lose benefits. However, pre-existing conditions are not covered. The law also halves the statute of limitations to file a claim for workers who experience traumatic injuries to six years.
Several Canadian and U.S. jurisdictions are establishing or considering presumptions that post-traumatic stress disorder is work-related for first responders, but stakeholders have raised concerns about the potential costs and discrimination.