The Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) recently concluded their annual convention. The last two sessions of their seminar concentrated on how states have reformed their Workers’ Compensation laws over the last 20 years. Four states were asked to share their methods of reform; Florida, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Texas.
Workers’ Comp Reforms in General
Before discussing the individual states’ different approached to reform, general changes were discussed by WCRI’s President and CEO, Dr. Richard A. Victor. Dr. Victor stated that the number of claims has drastically increased, forcing states to adjust to new demands. Changing demands included injured workers’ concerns, employers’ coverage issues, and of course, concerns of insurance providers.
States Take Differing Approaches to Workers’ Compensation Reforms
Florida’s latest round of Work Comp revisions came a dozen years ago, in 2003. At the time, Florida was not an employer-friendly environment with regards to Workers’ Compensation insurance rates. In fact, Florida had the highest rates in the nation for employers.
By identifying the most critical parties involved in reform, the employers and the employees, Florida made the adjustments necessary to now be the 28th most expensive state for employers’ workers’ compensation coverage. As a result of their reforms, almost 90 percent of those suffering a work injury are now represented by Workers’ Compensation attorneys. This reduced the time spent on workers’ compensation litigation, which actually increased efficiency in their system and saves costs.
Oregon had some unique issues to address, such as the fact that they felt injured workers were possibly being over-treated by chiropractors, but didn’t want to jeopardize the quality of care being offered. In fact, their committee was hoping to increase the level of care, and noted that one important factor in providing better care for injured workers was to find doctors who actually wanted to treat them.
In an effort to encourage workers to return to work as soon as possible after an injury, the committee provided funding for an early-return-to-work program. They also sped up the litigation process by clearing certain issues which could be brought to a hearing. The reduction in costs led to lower insurance premiums for employers, and a higher opt-in rate.
The Pennsylvania Legislature decided early that reforms were not to be based on insurer’s concerns, and that any employee benefits be excluded from the conversation of reform. With that in mind, PA had four goals to achieve workers’ compensation reform:
- Change the perception that big insurance companies are in control of the system
- Reducing ‘per use’ charges and reducing increases in resource usage
- Maintaining existing level of care, while reducing medical costs
- Lowering litigation costs
Pennsylvania saw worker injuries decrease after their reforms, and has become one of the more employer-friendly states in the country. Also stressed, was the fact that PA has been consistent in workers’ compensation management since the reform in 1996.
Texas was in a crisis in 2005 involving medical costs so high that employers were opting out of workers’ compensation insurance, which led to less injured workers actually returning to work. Doctors in the state complained of excessive billing requirements that were often specific to each type of treatment. By streamlining these requirements, Texas workers were given access to more treatments and the overall result was seen in a reduction of workers’ compensation claims.
Medical costs went well below the national median, where they were once one of the highest in the country. Insurance rates were reduced by half, and as a result, more employers began opting in again.
The Focus of Workers’ Compensation Reforms
In each instance, reforms were needed because of increasing costs of healthcare and the costs of worker’s compensation insurance premiums. Making workers’ compensation coverage affordable for employers is complicated by the length of time an injured worker is away from their job. The longer the employee is away, the more money workers’ compensation pays, the more costly the insurance premiums are for local employers. By reducing the ‘healing time’ and cutting some of the red tape involved, these states were able to adjust to a changing climate of Workers’ Compensation Benefits.
PA Workers’ Compensation Is What We Do
As you can see, Workers’ compensation is always changing, and right now, adapting to an aging workforce. By 2020, it is estimated that 25% of the American workforce will be 55 years or older. At Handler Henning and Rosenberg, our Workers’ Compensation attorneys have their finger on the pulse of Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation system. We stay current on all the latest reforms to PA Workers’ Compensation to give our clients the best possible representation.
Free Consultation About Your PA Workers’ Compensation Claim
If you have been injured at work or on the job, you may be entitled to claim Workers’ Compensation Benefits. When you contact a Pennsylvania Injury Attorney at our firm to handle your workers' compensation case, you get an expert team of legal professionals. We have helped thousands of injury victims recover settlements for their injuries, losses, and pain & suffering.