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State legislators pass a new workers’ compensation bill

A Republican-backed bill, which would require follow-up evaluations for severely injured workers, was passed by the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Friday, June 22. A requirement for workers to undergo these follow-up exams was determined to be illegal by the state Supreme Court last year.

That ruling affected mid-year loss costs — a factor that greatly impacts how much businesses had to pay to take out workers’ compensation (WC) coverage.

By February 1, the Pennsylvania Compensation Rating Bureau (PCRB) had announced that benefits costs had risen by 6.06 percent. This marked the highest percentage increase in the past two decades. One Republican legislator noted that this increase cost Pennsylvania business owners as much as $165 million.

This led to one house member to draft HB1840 last October. The proposed law was aimed at having the evaluations reinstated. It successfully passed through the House with a 115-80 vote. The bill’s author has said that he believes that Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf will sign the bill into law if the Senate passes it.

The bill’s backers say that HB1840 will help create a more favorable business environment in the state. They also note that it benefits both employers and those workers who are injured on the job.

If passed by the Senate and signed into law by the governor, the PCRB would be required to reassess costs associated with state WC payouts within 90 days of the bill being passed. By doing this, it would greatly reduce premiums for businesses.

The legislation would allow insurers to ask injured workers to submit to an impairment rating examination after being off the job for two years. If the doctor performing that evaluation were to determine that a worker’s impairment rating was less than 35 percent, then they’d only be eligible to receive partial benefits over a 10-year period.

Workers with more than 35 percent impairment would be eligible for lifetime WC benefits under the proposed law. Opponents of the bill argue that this is unfair for workers.

The impairment rating system used doesn’t necessarily account for the type of injury and how it impacts an employee’s overall quality of life. If a workers’ compensation attorney reviews your case, he or she may be able to shed light on the likelihood of receiving lifetime versus partial benefits.

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