House Passes Workers’ Compensation Reform Measure
House Bill 296 cleared that chamber along a largely party-line vote and now heads to the Senate for consideration; this measure is the first comprehensive workplace injury bill that Kentucky lawmakers have considered in nearly two decades.
Chief sponsor Rep. Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger) said that he and other lawmakers “worked incredibly hard to pass a fix to workers’ compensation for the sake of both workers and businesses.” He predicts that, if the measure passes, it will save over $100 million year, largely by limiting temporary disability payments and reducing the amount of time that workers have to file claims. The bill also establishes a prescription drug formulary for workplace injury victims and streamlines the system for agreed treatment cases.
Immediately prior to the vote, lawmakers defeated an amendment that would have increased attorneys’ fees and worker benefits.
Workers’ Compensation Reforms
Although pro-business Republicans in the Senate will probably pass House Bill 296 and Republican Gov. Matt Bevin will probably sign it, some people have serious concerns about the measure.
The bill limits temporary disability payments to four years, in most cases. So, if victims cannot return to work in that amount of time, they probably lose their benefits. At the same time, since they most likely have not reached their maximum medical improvement (MMI) level, they will be ineligible for permanent disability benefits. Furthermore, workplace injury victims probably lose their rights to benefits if they do not file claims within five years of the injury. That may be a problem with regard to certain injuries, especially occupational diseases that are difficult to diagnose as job-related.
In short, according to some, the bill contains financial advantages for insurance companies and employers but does virtually nothing to increase benefits to workers, which have remained static since 2000.
Workers’ Compensation System
Rep. Koenig is spot-on about the purpose for the workers’ compensation system. It’s designed to get injured victims back to work while providing relief from workplace injury-related financial pressures. So, in addition to medical bills, workers’ compensation also pays lost wages and/or permanent disability benefits.
Victims do not have to prove fault to obtain compensation for:
- Trauma Injuries: Falls are perhaps the most common trauma injuries and they usually lead to the most missed work.
- Occupational Diseases: Hearing loss is the leading injury in this category, which also includes respiratory problems, repetitive stress disorder, and other illnesses that occur over time.
In most cases, pre-existing conditions are covered under the law. Furthermore, unless the employers are part of a managed care system, most workplace injury victims in Kentucky can choose their own doctors.
The workplace injury compensation system may be cahnging, but the needs of injured vitims remain the same. For a free consultation with an aggressive workers’ compensation lawyer in Mumfordville, contact Attorney Gary S. Logsdon. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these cases.