WCA Issues Legislative Memos

The Workers’ Compensation Alliance has issued Memoranda in support and opposition to four bills this Legislative Session.  In addition to our continued opposition to insurer efforts to close the Aggregate Trust Fund, which protects the benefits of permanently disabled workers, we support the Zamora return-to-work standards bill, support the elimination of the remarriage penalty for widows and widowers, and oppose the expansion of the Medical Treatment Guidelines.  Here is the text of our Memoranda:

Memorandum in Support
A.7961 (Heastie)/S.5294 (Savino)

The New York Workers’ Compensation Alliance supports A.7961 (Heastie)/S.5294 (Savino).

The Workers’ Compensation Law recognizes that a partially disabled worker retains the ability to do some work, and provides compensation only for the loss of wage earning capacity.  No compensation is payable for the wage earning capacity the worker retains.  The law does not identify the circumstances in which a partially disabled worker must seek employment as a condition of receiving benefits.  This has resulted in significant litigation, inconsistency of result, and unfairness in the workers’ compensation system.

This bill would provide a statutory standard for labor market attachment in workers’ compensation claims.  It would preserve and codify the requirement of a causal connection between the injury and the loss of earnings, encourage return to work, expedite delivery of benefits, and reduce litigation.

For these reasons the New York Workers’ Compensation Alliance strongly supports S.5294 (Savino)/A.7961 (Heastie).  If you have any questions please contact Richard Winsten at (518) 465-5551

MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT
S.4090 (Savino)/A.6559 (Wright)

The New York Workers’ Compensation Alliance (WCA) supports S.4090 (Savino)/A.6559 (Wright).  This bill would continue death benefits under workers’ compensation law to a surviving spouse regardless of remarriage.

Workers’ compensation law provides death benefits to a spouse, minor children or other dependants of a deceased worker.  Death benefits are calculated as a percentage of the deceased’s average wage, subject to a minimum and a maximum.  Funeral expenses are also payable up to statutory maximums.

Current law ends these benefits on remarriage of the surviving spouse.  Upon remarriage of the surviving spouse a payment of two years compensation is made in a lump sum before benefits end.

The ability to remarry should not be hindered by the possibility of financial loss to a family who has already suffered the greatest loss, that of a spouse and parent.  This legislation will allow for workers compensation survivor benefits to continue in the case of the remarriage of a surviving spouse, thus allowing the a survivor to move forward in a new chapter of their life.

For these reasons WCA supports S.4090 (Savino)/A.6559 (Wright).  If you have any questions please contact Richard Winsten at (518) 465-5551.

Memorandum in Opposition
A.9068 (Bronson)/S.6997 (Savino)

The New York Workers’ Compensation Alliance strongly opposes A.9068 (Bronson)/S.6997 (Savino). This bill would expand the Medical Treatment Guidelines adopted by the Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) in 2010.

The WCB Medical Treatment Guidelines have resulted in the widespread denial of medical treatment to injured workers. Under the guise of “pre-authorizing” some treatment, the

Guidelines effectively “pre-deny” other treatment. Instead of permitting health care providers to provide patient-specific treatment, the Guidelines require physicians to “doctor-by-numbers,” providing the specific treatment prescribed by the Guidelines in the order directed by the Guidelines. This approach dehumanizes injured workers and undermines the value of medical expertise. Moreover, the legality of the Guidelines in view of the language, spirit and purpose of the Workers’ Compensation Law is questionable, and that issue is presently under consideration by the Court of Appeals.

The Medical Treatment Guidelines should be eliminated, not expanded. For that and many other reasons, the Workers’ Compensation Alliance strongly opposes A.9068 (Bronson)/S.6997 (Savino).

Memorandum in Opposition

A. A01569 (Kolb)/S04587(Seward)

The 2007 workers’ compensation reform legislation required a private insurer that fails to settle with a permanently partially disabled worker to deposit the present value of future compensation payments into an Aggregate Trust Fund (ATF).  This provision serves as a “fair claims settlement” rule.  It was intended to guarantee that workers whose benefits were significantly reduced by the PPD “caps” in 2007 would receive the fair value of those benefits if they chose to settle their case.

The 2013 budget rejected a proposal to end the ATF deposit requirement.  This was a sound and proper decision, as ending the ATF would significantly increase litigation on the issues of maximum medical improvement and permanency.  More importantly, it would ultimately amount to a second cut in benefits for permanently disabled workers whose benefits were already limited in 2007.

It would be unfair and unjust to remove the ATF deposit requirement from the 2007 reform legislation, thus unbalancing that agreement.  It was an important component of the legislation that should not be separated and removed without consideration of its impact on other aspects of the 2007 reforms.  The ATF serves an important role in ensuring that permanently disabled workers that are subject to the PPD caps receive the fair value of their (already limited) benefits.

We strongly oppose A.01569 (Kolb)/S.04587(Seward).