- Arizona Guidelines: The Senate passed an omnibus bill (HB 2368) that “requires the Industrial Commission (ICA) to develop and implement a process for the use of evidence based medical treatment guidelines, where appropriate, to treat injured workers no later than December 31, 2014.” The ICA is to provide status updates each December 31 (starting in 2012), and if consensus cannot be reached by 2014 then at least a timetable will be established. The floor amendment does not mandate what guidelines to create/select, or the criteria for selection, but at least sets the process into motion. Obviously this isn’t law yet but this legislative consensus is a very good sign that a standard of care beyond the treating physician’s personal opinion is coming. Feel free to go back in time and read my March 23 blog about Arizona.
- Oklahoma Opt-Out: The compromise process in the legislature appears to be working as the Oklahoma Senate Judiciary Committee approved that employers with as few as one employee could choose to opt-out of the Work Comp system. The original bill required fifty employees, which became a sticking point as the perception of bias towards larger employers. Their substitute plan to offer medical and indemnity benefits would still be subject to Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) regulated by the federal government. Not surprisingly, business and employer groups support this new option while insurers and insurance organizations oppose (they obviously have some skin in the game). Several obstacles remain to this becoming law, including approval by the full Senate and then the House, but it certainly appears as though this is now much closer to happening. Feel free to go back in time and read my March 19 blog about this opt-out provision.
- Mississippi Reform: Unfortunately, the good news stops here. Mississippi appears to be at a standstill in regards to SB 2576 and HB 555 that would shift presumption in favor of employers in many cases, increase benefits for death and disfigurement, limit claimant’s attorneys’ fees, and allow employers to require drug tests of workers suspected of alcohol and drug contribution to work-related accidents. As we all know, the “sausage making” process of legislating can be messy at times, and it is difficult to understand everything that happens outside of the spotlight and behind closed doors (“Gary Chism, R-Columbus, said that members were lobbied intensely over the weekend to pull back the measure”). Obviously, there is more than meets the eye here as Mississippi tries to join the majority of states that at least give balance to the process of assessing medical appropriateness, but hopefully change will eventually come.
In this together – Mark