February 13, 2004
Council: New comp bill raises benefits without easing employers' burden
A new union-backed workers’ compensation bill would raise compensation benefits without enacting necessary reforms, according to Elliott Shaw, The Business Council’s director of government affairs.
“This bill not only raises employers’ cost by hiking benefits, it also encourages more litigation by employees and allows the unions to choose an employer’s workers’ comp carrier,” Shaw said.
The bill, (S.6135/A. 9736), is sponsored by state Senator Guy Velella (R-Westchester) and Assemblywoman Susan John (D-Monroe County).
The bill would raise the level of workers’ comp benefits to $625, 2/3 of the state average weekly wage, by December, 2006.
The Business Council's initial estimate is that this change, alone, could raise employers' rates by 25 percent or more.
The bill would also:
- Allow unions to select a workers’ compensation carrier
for an employer.
- Create a medical trust fund for employers who do not provide
health insurance that compensation bills would be paid out
- Permits high-wage earners to purchase additional benefits
above the state rate. If the benefits are never used, the
money is returned to the worker upon retirement.
- Allows the Workers’ Compensation Board to charge an employer for a claimants attorney fees if the employer has unsuccessfully argued against the claim.
“Businesses in New York need real compensation reform,” Shaw said. “Benefit increases must be balanced by measures that make the state friendlier to both businesses and employees. This bill only succeeds in creating a more hostile environment.”
The Business Council is strongly supporting a bill (S.5320-Libous, A.8862-Schimminger) that would:
- Limit, to 10 years, the duration of benefits given to
injured or sick workers in cases in which benefits are not
prescribed by statutory schedules. The goal is to give workers
both ample benefits and sufficient time to seek retraining
to return to work.
- Provide for Social Security and pension offsets—that is, reductions in workers’ compensation benefits applied when workers receive Social Security and/or pension benefits.
- Give injured workers only half of remaining scheduled
benefits if they return to work before scheduled benefits
- Implement meaningful objective medical guidelines to determine the degree of disability and the ability of workers receiving benefits to meet occupational demands.