Workers’ Compensation Tag

Lawmakers Debate Workers’ Compensation Reform

So far, it’s been a rather bumpy ride for House Bill 296, as the workers’ comp legislation is currently in a Senate committee.

Many of the proposed changes are largely technical. For example, in most cases, the bill would cut off medical benefits when the victims reach age 70 or have collected benefits for four years; the current system uses Social Security eligibility as a cutoff. Other alterations, such as the creation of a workers’ comp drug formulary, bring Kentucky’s system more in line with some neighboring states. There are some proposed procedural changes as well, including a provision that would limit the time victims have to file for reconsideration.

Rep. Adam Koenig (R-Frankfort) proposed several successful amendments, including one that increased the average weekly wage and one that extended medical benefits to permanently disabled victims.

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.

Another Employer Fraud Scheme And Another Arrest

A Kentucky woman extradited to New York now faces serious workplace injury fraud charges, but are these kinds of cases the real problem in what many say is a broken system?

According to New York State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott, 47-year-old Sheryl Colson, of New Concorde, began receiving her mother’s workers’ compensation checks in 2011, because the self-insured Orange-Ulster Board of Cooperative Educational Services did not verify the former nurse’s death. Prosecutors allege that Ms. Colson, who controlled her late mother’s estate, cashed $400 monthly checks from January 2011 to January 2013, using the funds to pay bills, eat out at restaurants, and buy “products from an Indiana company specializing in the production of hand-blown glass pipes and other smoking devices.”

Are More Pro-Business Reforms Coming?

Erlanger Republican Rep. Adam Koenig is spearheading an effort to pass a comprehensive workers’ compensation reform package in the House of Representatives that he says will remove “additional burdens” on state businesses that “drive up costs” on state employers.

Although Rep. Koenig said the forthcoming plan will “really not affect workers very much,” his record suggests otherwise. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, one of the largest business lobbying groups in the state, recently gave Rep. Koenig its MVP Award not only for his pro-business voting record, but also because he often “went out of [his] way. . .to support or oppose an issue critical to the business climate in Kentucky.” Furthermore, in 2016, Rep. Koenig co-sponsored rather controversial reporting amendments to the existing workers’ compensation law.

New ALJs May Reduce Workers’ Comp Logjam

Workers comp claims

A Franklin County Circuit judge, who Governor Matt Bevin derided as a “political hack,” cleared the way for six new administrative law judges to being hearing workers’ compensation cases in Kentucky.

Since he took office in December 2015, the GOP governor and Judge Phillip Shepherd have repeatedly butted heads over state government restructuring.  In June 2016, Gov. Bevin dissolved the seven-member Workers’ Compensation Nominating Commission and replaced it with a five-member commission. In apparent protest, Judge Shepherd did not allow the newly-appointed ALJs to join the other eleven, and the resulting backlog quickly grew to about 400 cases. Making matters worse, four Commission members resigned and Gov. Bevin refused to appoint replacements until the disputed ALJs took office. The governor’s office welcomed Judge Shepherd’s ruling in a statement, but the Kentucky AFL-CIO is still reviewing the decision.