The Business Council is deeply concerned with a number of bills that have been introduced and are at various stages of the legislative process in both houses. Each of these bills represents further expansion of the workers’ compensation system and a proliferation of costs to employers. In 2017, the Legislature acted to amend the workers’ comp system. The reform was fair and balanced and offered a modest savings to employers while expanding access to benefits to the most injured workers. These bills ignore those efforts and would act to not only reverse those modest savings but once again send the workers’ compensation system down the path of spiraling cost increases year after year.
Accordingly, The Business Council opposes the following pieces of legislation:
S.7865 (Savino) / A.11030 (Rosenthal D) – This bill completely ignores the reforms of 2017 that relieve a significant amount of burden regarding attachment to the labor market. This bill would allow even temporarily injured workers to forgo any attempt at remaining in the workforce should their current employer be unable to offer them other duties. This undermines any attempt to get injured workers speedily back to work, increases the chances of workers remaining out of work indefinitely and increases costs.
S.8034 (Alcantara) / A.11028 (Jean-Pierre) – This bill would saddle employers with the financial responsibility for the death of an individual from an opioid overdose when that employee was ever prescribed an opioid under the workers’ compensation system. Not only does the bill fail to require a causal relationship between the two events, it ignores the intervening actions of an employee as well as the steps and measures taken in the medical treatment guidelines to limit access to opioids in the system. The nexus between the employer and the overdose is so thin that the precedent set would have very broad implications throughout the system.
S.8035 (Alcantara) / A.11029 (Bronson) – This bill would significantly increase the number of claimants eligible for consideration of additional factors in determining whether an injured worker's earning capacity could be expected to increase. The universe of workers between ages 25 and 35 is quite significant. Given that the maximum weekly benefit continues to increase each year, this bill is both unnecessary and would greatly increase costs to the system.
S.8433 (Funke) / A.11036 Rules (Titus) – This legislation would have the opposite effect as stated and desired by the sponsors. The concept of removal of defense costs from the loss cost is aimed at lowering comp rates but ultimately would lead to less transparency and greater costs. Defense costs are spent to mitigate the cost of claims. Removing incentives to vigorously defend claims, especially lesser claims, would lead to higher claims and higher premiums. Further, currently, by incorporating these costs in the loss cost, the public can see those costs and how they are applied; otherwise, defense costs will simply be rolled into the multipliers used by carriers to determine specific premiums for employers.
S.8563 (Sanders) / A.11034 (Titus) – This bill is unnecessary because the minimum weekly award was raised four years ago and is not in need of modification for this purpose.
For the above stated reasons, The Business Council opposes S.7865 (Savino) / A.11030 (Rosenthal D), S.8034 (Alcantara) / A.11028 (Jean-Pierre), S.8035 (Alcantara) / A.11029 (Bronson), S.8433 (Funke) / A.11036 Rules (Titus), and S.8563 (Sanders) / A.11034 (Titus).