Workers' Compensation


SB 1414(1) (Henry and Irvin): Requires the Administrator of the Workers' Compensation Court together with a newly created Medical Cost Reduction Committee to reduce medical costs to the workers' compensation system by five percent (5%) by September 1, 2000. Medical costs may not thereafter increase more than the Consumer Price Index for medical services. The bill requires the State Insurance Fund to declare the largest dividend in the Fund's history. The dividend will return approximately $30 million to policyholders. Dividends to state agencies (approximately $6.6 million) will be deposited in the Multiple Injury Trust Fund (MITF). Future dividend is also required if the ratio of premium-to-surplus exceeds 1:2. Future dividends payable to state agencies will be deposited in the General Revenue Fund instead of being returned to the agency. The bill also clarifies the law which allows state agencies to purchase workers' compensation insurance from private carriers if certain procedures and requirements are met. The Administrator is also given tools for limiting improper access to records of the Workers' Compensation Court in violation of state and federal law. The MITF is phased out over a period of time and all past-due obligations of the Fund are to be paid. These payments are derived from an assessment against insurance companies, self-insured employers, and the State Insurance Fund. Benefits to injured workers will increase by 4% as a result of this revised funding formula. Effective upon signature.

SB 1606(5) (Pruitt/Morgan): Replaces the current Workers' Compensation Court system with an administrative system. Replaces judges with magistrates who will hear and decide matters that are not resolved by certified facilitators. Current judges will serve as magistrates until their terms expire; thereafter, magistrates will be appointed by the Governor from a list of nominees provided by the Workers' Compensation Nominating Committee. The Governor will also appoint the Administrator of the system from a list of nominees.

Beginning September 1, 2000, resolution of disputes involving compensation or benefits will be commenced with the filing of a Request For Assistance Form with the Administrator. Parties who have filed claims previous to this date may opt in to the new system. The Administrator will instruct the parties involved in the dispute to select a certified facilitator who will meet with the parties to resolve the dispute. Unresolved disputes, and disputes in which the employer denies that the claim is compensable or the claim is based on occupational disease will be referred directly to a magistrate for hearing. Venue will be in the judicial district where the employee resides at the time of the injury or the county in which the principal place of business is located if the employee had not established residence at the time of injury.

The bill caps attorney fees and modifies the procedure for resolving differences in impairment ratings. The bill also transfers regulation of self-insureds to the Insurance Commissioner. Effective 9-1-00

HB 2395(1) (Hastings/Henry): Authorizes the State Insurance Fund to advance funds until July 1, 2000, to the Multiple Injury Trust Fund for payment of permanent total disability workers' compensation awards. Provides for an administrative fee that may be received by the State Insurance Fund until it is repaid. Requires transfer of funds from state agency policyholders to the State Insurance Fund in an amount not to exceed the amount advanced to the Multiple Injury Trust Fund by the State Insurance Fund if on or after July 1, 2000, there are outstanding advances and the projected revenues of the Multiple Injury Trust Fund are insufficient to pay the PTD awards as they become due. Requires future dividends made by the State Insurance Fund on behalf of state agencies to be deposited to the credit of the General Revenue Fund of the State Treasury. Effective 3-22-00.

(1) Passed, signed by Governor (2) Passed, pending Governor's approval/disapproval (3) Vetoed by Governor
(4) Pending in Legislature (5) Failed in Legislature (6) Enrolled with the Sec. of State

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