Changes to the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Law

The Minnesota Worker’s Compensation statute underwent substantial revision during the past legislative session. Most of the statutory changes will take effect October 1, 2013. The following is a short summary that outlines the main changes:

The implementation of pain contracts. This will affect employees who use opioids on a long term basis. These circumstances will now require a written contract with the prescribing provider.

There is change regarding the collection of written data by the State on the prevailing charge for medical treatment. Specifically, the current collection interval of 1 year has now been expanded to 2 years. This will affect charges for medical fees not otherwise designated under the fee schedule – which employers and insurers are required to pay at 85% of the prevailing charges for similar treatment.

A 2-year pilot patient advocate program has been established for back fusions. The purported intent here is for employees contemplating spinal fusion to understand their options and to receive appropriate treatment. This program is to be paid for by the MN Special Compensation Fund.

“Mental impairment” is now included as an occupational disease (i.e. a compensable work-related condition), in certain circumstances. It is defined as a condition of post – traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), as diagnosed by a licensed physician or psychologist. PTSD means the condition as described in the most recent edition of the DMSV published by the American Psychiatric Association. A mental impairment is NOT considered a disease; however, if it results from a disciplinary action, work evaluation, job transfer, layoff, demotion, promotion, termination, retirement or other similar action- taken in good faith by the employer.

Attorney fees on disputed indemnity benefits will now be paid on a straight 20% contingent fee- as compared to previous 25/20% formula. The procedural level at which an “excess attorney fee” requirement exists is now $26,000 versus the previous $13,000 cap. And, partial reimbursement of attorney fees pursuant to Minnesota Statute Section 176.081, Subdivision 7, will not apply to hourly Roraff or Irwin or Heaton attorney fees.

The maximum compensation rate has been changed. It will now be 102% of the statewide average weekly wage for the period ending December 31 of the preceding year. The minimum compensation rate of $130 remains unchanged. This means the maximum compensation rate will automatically escalate each year – as opposed to requiring a legislative amendment every few years.

The maximum cost of living adjustment (“COLA”) has been increased to 3% – as compared to the previous 2% rate that has been in effect since 1995. Also, the adjustment will not be less than 0% – resolving the problems which occurred with the -1.14% adjustment of October 1, 2010. The initial adjustment is deferred until the third anniversary date following the injury – as compared to the previous four-year anniversary date requirement.

Job placement and job development have been limited to no more than 20 hours per month, or 26 consecutive or intermittent weeks. After provision of 13 consecutive or intermittent weeks of job placement services, the QRC must consult with the parties. At that point the QRC must either file a plan amendment reflecting an agreement to extend placement services for up to an additional 13 consecutive or intermittent weeks – or file a request for a rehabilitation conference. The QRC cannot provide medical, rehabilitation, or disability case management services related to an injury unless the case management services are part of the approved rehabilitation plan.