Two bills, LB 307 and LB 584, are scheduled for hearings in the Business and Labor Committee at 1:30 p.m. on Monday, Mar. 18, in the Nebraska Legislature’s Room 2102. These bills could gut the protections workers get through the workers’ compensation system in Nebraska, including taking the choice of doctor away from workers. The bills would also take many decisions out of the realm of the doctor-patient relationship, local control, and even the state’s control, and hand those decisions to workers’ employers, insurance interests, and private companies that are focused more on making money than ensuring workers’ health and safety. A bill similar to LB 584 promoting evidence-based medicine fortunately did not get out of committee last year.
To educate folks more on some of the bills before the Legislature that affect workers and also see the perspectives the firm has to advocate for workers, please read these blog posts:
Help lawmakers hear your voice by getting involved and being vigilant! Call, email, or write your senator to share your personal story and how these bills affect real people. These links may be useful for contacting senators: Find Your Senator, Senators’ Web Pages, Senator Roster, and Business and Labor Committee. Members of the Business and Labor Committee include Sen. Steve Lathrop (District 12), Chairperson, Sen. Brad Ashford (District 20), Sen. Ernie Chambers (District 11), Sen. Thomas Hansen (District 42), Sen. Burke Harr (District 8), Sen. Amanda McGill (District 26), and Sen. Norman Wallman (District 30).
Because citizens’ involvement and interest in workers’ protections matter. Hearing from workers affects how our senators vote. So don’t take programs like workers’ compensation for granted – stand up, get involved, and be heard!
New legislation has been proposed to reduce the quality of medical care for workers under the guise of reducing costs
Evidence-based medicine and utilization review (EBM/UR) of medical care for workers’ compensation are currently being pushed by big business and big insurance interests.
We are facing such legislation in Nebraska this year.
One reason supporters of this way to control medical care for workers give seems to be that medical care currently provided is “inefficient.”
This is a euphemism for medical costs are too high. I view this as critical of physicians and other health-care providers who are taking care of injured workers. The Florida Medical Association (FMA) has recently responded to this type of criticism of the medical profession. In their case, the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) and National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) say workers’ comp rates are being raised because drugs are dispensed directly by doctors. But an OIR report, according to the article linked below, “shows virtually no difference in the cost of such drugs whether dispensed by doctors or pharmacies,” so the FMA disagrees with blaming their doctors for rate increases.
This quote is from the story linked to above: “The truth is that the NCCI and carriers have used physician dispensing as a scapegoat for hundreds of millions of dollars in rate increases when other medical costs have been the real cost drivers in workers’ compensation,” the group charged. “The numbers are fabricated in an attempt to eliminate doctor dispensing.”
The year 2013 will mark 100 years of workers’ compensation law in Nebraska. This state was a leader in adopting the new protections and benefits for workers. The first workers’ compensation laws in the United States were enacted two years earlier, and few states had followed by 1913. Workers’ compensation laws were hailed as social progress, if not outright human-rights triumphs. Nebraska was a leader in protecting workers’ rights. Much has changed since then.
The current workplace is not the workplace that existed 100 years ago. The jobs then were much more physically demanding and dangerous. The injuries and diseases are not the same. Repetitive-motion injury was not contemplated or compensated. Cancer from industrial solvents was not contemplated or compensated. Mental disease was stigmatized by society and essentially not compensated. Medical practice was less specialized, and treatment options were much more limited.
Interested parties have long been working to keep the law in sync with the times. The law has changed from time to time, but some of the bedrock concepts, such as requiring “accident” have resulted in some rules that lawyers call legal fictions, for instance. Medical benefits that experts consider the most basic protection are the most costly part of the system, and cost increases are an area of constant concerns.
Competing legislation is presented each year with incremental changes resulting. The last major revisions happened 20 years ago. The annual arguments sometimes get heated, but the law seems to advance. The big picture is something we can be proud of.
Nebraska law has the highest rating of any state under presidential-commission guidelines established in 1972. Premiums and costs are in the mid-range of the states, as are worker benefits. Nebraska is rated as the 2nd-best state legal climate by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Nebraska is one of few states that has robust vocational rehabilitation benefits for injured workers. Hopefully we can continue working together to maintain and improve Nebraska’s workers’ compensation law in ways that benefit all of the competing interests.
Bottom-line conclusion: Nebraska law is doing well for a centenarian. Let’s keep cooperating to ensure progress.
If an injury or an accident would not have happened if you weren't already injured in the first place, then workers' comp should pay for it.
Many times an injured worker is taken off work and is further injured at home. Or someone may sustain another accident and injury while traveling to a medical appointment or picking up their medications. Does workers’ compensation coverage extend to these additional accidents and injuries?
In Nebraska, it does.
For example, Mr. Smidt slipped and fell on the ice at his home when he returned from physical therapy; Ms. Baker was involved in a motor-vehicle collision going to her doctor’s appointment. Mr. Johnson, who had a broken ankle, fell down his stairs because he lost his balance, so he sustained another fracture injury. These are common scenarios of a worker who gets injured at work and sustains further injuries or another accident as a result of the original work accident.
These events can be described as “quasi-course of employment” and focus on the activities and circumstances that an injured employee encounters following an injury, though they take place outside the time and space limits of a worker’s normal employment.
Even though these events would not be considered employment activities for usual purposes, they are nevertheless related to the employment in the sense that they are necessary and/or reasonable activities that would not have been undertaken if not for the original compensable accident and injury.
If you or a friend has something like this happen but the insurance carrier is not taking responsibility for the additional injury and medical care, contact an experienced attorney to investigate and file a claim. Protect yourself, your friends, and your family from paying for shouldering medical expenses for additional injuries that are compensable.
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