Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act proposed amendments

wcacOn January 28th the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Committee (WCAC) met to discuss recommendations for changes to the workers’ compensation statute. This was the first time a proposed draft  to the statute was made public.  In its present form, it appears to be a “rough” draft. But if passed in roughly the same form, it would have a big impact on injured workers’ benefits.  Some of the proposed legislation is as follows:

Rehabilitation Benefits

A rehabilitation consultant shall not attend an employee’s medical appointment unless the employee and employer have both approved the attendance in writing before the date of the appointment.

One of the reasons this was allegedly put into the proposal was that it was felt that QRCs are not trained in “medical management.” However, despite the fact that QRCs may not have an MD, most are fairly familiar with work injuries and with the medical profession in general. Although they may not be able to perform surgery on the injured worker they still have the ability to sit in on a doctors appointment.  In most cases, the presence of the QRC at the appointment is not just beneficial for the injured worker, but also for the employer. The QRC, following the appointment, is able to go back to the parties and describe the doctors opinions.  Quite frankly, this proposal will cause more time and money to be involved in getting written approval for each appointment.

The employer is not liable for the cost of more than six months of job placement services per rehabilitation plan, or for the cost of more than 20 hours of job placement service hours per month, unless the employer has approved the additional services in writing before they are provided. The six month time period starts with the date that the job placement plan and agreement is signed by all parties. The limitations in this paragraph apply whether the job placement services are provided by a vendor or by the rehabilitation firm of the assigned rehabilitation consultant.

Basically, if an injured worker is in need of more than six months of job placement, an employer needs to sign off on the plan.  Otherwise, job placement services would be discontinued at the six month mark.

Examinations

The injured employee must submit to examination by the employer’s physician if requested by the employer. and at reasonable times thereafter upon the employer’s request. The examination must take place in a licensed medical facility, or in an existing physician’s office established for the diagnosis and treatment of patients.

Fairly straightforward, no more examination at the Super 8.

Hearings

[A]ll hearings must be held within twenty-six months after a petition has been filed, unless the chief administrative law judge issues an order for a later date[.]

A hearing must be held within 2 years from the date of filing.

Other issues

The initial draft did not include language regarding changes for death benefits, the Workers’ Compensation Collaborative, illegal aliens, intoxicated workers or retraining. It is uncertain at this point if these areas will even be included in the next round of amendments.

The next meeting is to be held on February 11, 2009.

Stay tuned.

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