The Business Council of New York State opposes this bill which would repeal §25, subdivision 2-b, of the Workers' Compensation Law (WCL), the conciliation process within the statute which allows for claims to be handled on a more expeditious basis. Additionally, this bill requires hearings to be held before a workers' compensation law judge within twenty days from the filing of an application for a hearing.
Section 20 of the WCL already provides that upon application of any party the Board shall order a hearing. It is unclear that a mandatory timeframe within which hearings must be held is needed, and by the Board's own data, the number of hearings held annually has declined while the number of administrative law judges has increased.
More problematic in this bill, however, is the repeal of the conciliation section of the statute. Conciliation has proven to be an effective tool to resolve differences and reach resolution among the parties. It is particularly useful in resolving disputes on claims with an expected duration of less than 52 weeks. Without this statutory tool – effectively a hammer on all parties to get to the negotiating table to settle any differences – friction costs will increase, and the overall workers' compensation system will lose the opportunity to avail itself of a time-tested process to keep the system both efficient and fair.
It is widely known that many aspects of the reforms enacted in 2007 are not fully implemented. Without the full benefit of the 2007 reforms which were designed to improve effectiveness and efficiency in support of the increased benefits provided to injured workers, costs within the system continue to rise. Conciliation is a tool used widely across many different systems as one means to balance competing interests with a goal of timely resolution. It is ill-informed public policy to repeal the authorization for conciliation, with no explanation or data to support such a repeal, and at a time when the workers' compensation system is in greater need of efficiency and effectiveness.
For these reasons, The Business Council opposes passage of this bill.