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Alaska Gov. Bill Walker introduced legislation Wednesday aimed at streamlining the state’s workers compensation program by improving claim dispute resolution, accelerating care for injured workers and deterring insurance fraud.
Alaska House Bill 79 and Senate Bill 40 propose to modify the workers comp system in several areas, which Gov. Walker listed in a statement Wednesday. That includes requiring the state’s workers comp board to hold hearings shortly after a comp claim is filed, rather than waiting for an employee to request a hearing.
The proposal also seeks to prevent non-attorneys from representing parties before the board and would allow civil penalties against uninsured employers to be assessed directly rather than by petition to the Alaska Division of Workers’ Compensation, according to the statement from the governor’s office.
Other proposals include accelerating delivery of medical care to injured workers, seeking to reduce workers comp fraud stemming from employee misclassification and expanding penalties for employers who pay fraudulently low workers comp premiums by misclassifying workers or misrepresenting the nature of their business, the statement said.
“The goal of our workers compensation system is to help Alaskans who were injured on the job get healthy and back to work as soon as possible,” Gov. Walker said in a statement. “In recent months, my office has received valuable input from multiple stakeholder groups on ways to improve workers compensation in Alaska.”
Gov. Walker sent letters to Alaska state Sen. Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks) and state Rep. Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham) on Wednesday encouraging them to pass the bills, noting the state’s workers comp system has not been significantly reformed in more than a decade. Gov. Walker said recent legal developments necessitated some of the proposals.
SAIF Corp. board members on Monday offered ousted CEO John Plotkin a $1.7 million settlement that would end the dispute between the insurer and the executive that began nearly three years ago.