News & Updates
Work Comp Study
Assigned to EAIC
HJ 25 (Rep. Scott Reichner – Bigfork) directs the Economic Affairs Interim Committee (EAIC) to study various work comp issues, primarily the issue of “subrogation.” In a situation in which a worker is injured by a third party, work comp benefits should be offset if the injured worker is made whole by damages in a tort claim, referred to as subrogation.
Due to court decisions in Montana, subrogation does not apply until a claimant is given a chance to be made whole in a civil action against a third party or provided “full legal redress for injury incurred in employment.” Work comp insurers in other states may be able to successfully subrogate and receive offsets against their costs thus potentially lowering work comp premiums, while in Montana few insurers are willing to pay the court costs necessary to pursue subrogation because of concerns that under the constitutional interpretations an injured worker first must be made whole.
HJ 25 also directs the EAIC to look at work comp court structure, Montana State Fund independence, medical utilization and treatment guidelines, return-to-work or stay-at-work policies, and on-the-job safety.
The Main Street Montana Project came to Billings for the first of many gatherings across the state today (May 28, 2013). Michael Marsh attended after receiving an invitation from the Office of the Governor (Bullock). Many were in attendance (around 75) including the Governor, Commissioner Bucy of the Department of Labor and Industry, all of the Yellowstone County Commissioners, the Billings Mayor and educators and decision makers from businesses large and small from the Billings area. The Project is to develop a long term, sustainable, non-partisan business plan for the state; identify challenges and pursue capitalizing upon our strengths and opportunities. Excellent first meeting, it was an honor to be invited; more so once we were asked to talk about workers’ compensation (universally perceived as a challenge in MT). A news clip can be see at http://www.kulr8.com/story/22441754/bullock-hosts-main-street-montana-project .
Press release from the Montana Chamber of Commerce. Despite significant efforts, the decision for inclusion on the LMAC panel has been limited once again to Labor (unions) and Business. A special ‘permanent’ sub-group was created to accomodate most of the parties that complained about the former LMAC operations, such as the Montana Hospital Association. Unfortunately, independent Third Party Claims Administrators, those that do the actual administration of the claims for Plan 1 self-insured organizations in Montana, were not included in any formal way. We fear that any outcome of the LMAC will mirror that from the last session of 4 years, a glazing over of the true cost drivers in the system and legislation that favors Plan 2 and Plan 3 entities. Proof of the failure of the prior reforms to equally protect Plan 1 self-insured organization is clearly in the data, overall costs of claims for Plan 1 entities continue to climb while Montana State Fund has made two base premium adjustments downward. We question if rates have actually fallen 25%…at least for our company and those that we have talked with, there have been minor (2% – 5%) reductions.
From the Montana Chamber of Commerce: For immediate release as of Tuesday, May 21, 2013, 1:30 PM
contact Webb Brown 406-431-9508 or Webb@MontanaChamber.com
Montana Chamber Applauds LMAC Reauthorization,
Dahlgren as Montana Chamber Representative
The Montana Chamber of Commerce strongly supports the reauthorization of the Labor-Management Advisory Council on Worker’s Compensation (LMAC) by Montana Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Pam Bucy. The LMAC was created in 2006 to monitor worker’s compensation issues and to make policy recommendations to the Department and the Legislature. After the passage of workers’ compensation reforms in the 2011 Legislature, the LMAC disbanded in July of that year.
“The 2011 Legislature passed significant reform of our work comp system,” said Webb Brown, President/CEO for the Montana Chamber. ”However, there are still numerous issues that challenge our ability to reduce or even hold premiums steady.”
Since the enactment of House Bill 334 in the 2011 Legislature, premium costs have gone down about 25 percent. Nonetheless, worker’s compensation premiums in Montana are still some of the highest in the nation. Worker’s compensation premiums affect every business in Montana and constitute a sizeable operational expense. Our high premiums also deter businesses from moving to Montana and even cause some to leave. The LMAC will monitor the effectiveness of the HB 334 reforms and consider new ideas to reform the system.
The LMAC will be chaired by Lt. Gov. John Walsh. The newly-reauthorized LMAC consists of five representatives from labor and five from management, including specific representation from the Montana Chamber.
“We’re pleased that Commissioner Bucy re-appointed Bill Dahlgren, Operations Manager at Sun Mountain Sports, to serve on the Council as our representative,” noted Brown. ”Bill knows our worker’s compensation system and will be a solid advocate for the business community.”
In addition to monitoring the work of the LMAC, the Montana Chamber will participate in the Economic Affairs Interim Committee’s House Joint Resolution 25 study of various workers’ compensation issues. The State Chamber will also lead a private-sector effort to review recent Court cases on work comp.
The Montana Chamber is the state’s leading business advocate and the driving force in promoting a favorable business climate.
DOL/OSHA Launches Initiative to Protect Temporary Workers OSHA has announced an initiative to further protect temporary employees from workplace hazards. A memorandum sent to the agency’s regional administrators directs field inspectors to assess whether employers who use temporary workers are complying with their responsibilities under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Inspectors will denote when temporary workers are exposed to safety and health violations and assess whether temporary workers received required training in a language and vocabulary they could understand. The memo and press release, which can be viewed at http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=23994, underscores the duty of employers to protect all workers from hazards. In addition, OSHA has begun working with the American Staffing Association and employers that use staffing agencies, to promote best practices ensuring that temporary workers are protected from job hazards. In recent months, OSHA has received a series of reports about temporary workers suffering fatal injuries – many during their first days on a job.
The Montana legislature passed, and the Governor signed into law, HB-0232. The change creates a higher standard of proof for claims against an employer or fellow employee for ‘intentional’ injuries alleged to go beyond the Exclusive Remedy. Allegations after the effective date of the change (July 1, 2013) must now show that the intentional and deliberate injury through “clear and convincing evidence”.