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May 4, 2000

Council urges lawmakers to reform workers' comp and contain its costs

The Business Council is urging state lawmakers to enact new workers' compensation reforms to enhance the reforms of 1996--and to reject new proposals that would inflate employers' workers' comp costs.

Before the 1996 reforms, New York's comp costs were some 57 percent above the national average, said Kerry Kirwan, The Council's legislative analyst specializing in workers' comp. Although those reforms helped significantly reduce New York's costs, they remain about 20 percent above the national average.

Moreover, last year's proposed double-digit rate hike, which was eventually rejected by the Pataki administration, suggests that pressure for cost increases is mounting, she added.

The Business Council has made workers' compensation reform one of its top priorities this year and is advocating two specific reforms:

The Business Council has also taken positions on several other workers' comp-related bills pending in the legislature this year:

Certifying professionals that provide Independent Medical Examinations: Kirwan said The Business Council is also supporting a Senate bill (S.4843) sponsored by Senator Nicholas Spano (R-Westchester) that would require physicians, podiatrists, chiropractors, or psychologists who perform independent medical examinations (IMEs) for workers'-comp purposes to be certified to do so by the chair of the state Workers' Compensation Board.

No such regulations currently exist, and the proposed bill would fairly regulate IMEs in the same way that treating physicians are current monitored by the workers' comp board, Kirwan noted.

"Providing the Board with this additional oversight ability will ensure that claimants and employers have protection against unjust practices or exams," she said.

The bill would also give all parties flexibility by permitting exceptions when the requirement of a certified IME proved unduly burdensome on employers, carriers, or claimants, she said.

Expanding chiropractic fee schedules: The Business Council is also opposing a bill (S.4117A/Spano and A.2946-A/Tocci) that would increase workers' comp costs by expanding the scope of the chiropractic fee schedule and by permitting separate charges to be made for individual components of a treatment or procedure.

Chiropractors now receive a single fee per visit which includes any treatments provided during the visit, Kirwan noted. This bill would permit them to charge separately for any treatment, which would inflate fees significantly.