Delaware’s Workers’ Compensation Task Force reconvened last Friday for its first meeting since Gov. Jack Markell signed the group’s recommendations into law on June 27, 2013.
The task force will now hold a series of monthly meetings to further address Delaware’s rising workers’ compensation premiums.
Chaired by Lt. Governor Matt Denn, the task force met weekly for four months earlier this year to address the double-digit rise in Delaware’s workers’ comp premiums over the past two years, after four consecutive years of decreases that totaled over 40 percent.
As part of its recommendations, the Workers’ Compensation Task Force suggested that the task force be kept in existence on a temporary basis — both to consider some issues that it did not have time to discuss during the short time that it had to make recommendations, and so that it can monitor the impact of its recommendations and suggest stricter measures with respect to medical costs if necessary.
The task force said that if the implemented recommendations do not result in manageable increases in workers’ comp premiums, more significant changes would be considered — both with respect to the levels and methods of paying medical claims, and the system for calculating injured workers permanency and lost wage claims.
Lt. Gov. Matt Denn has scheduled monthly meetings to be held on the first Friday of every month through June 2014, beginning this month.
Created by House Joint Resolution 3, the Workers’ Compensation Task Force was created in January 2013 by the Delaware General Assembly and the governor. The task force was charged with an expedited review of Delaware law relating to workers’ comp, the impact that the 2007 amendments to that law had upon workers’ comp premiums, the reasons for recent increases in workers’ comp premiums, and whether any additional changes to statutes, regulations, or practices are required to control growth in premiums.
The task force concluded that a number of statutory and regulatory changes were required in order to avoid significant future increases in premiums.
The task force took the view that the 2007 statutory amendments and subsequent regulatory work done by the Health Care Advisory Panel had initially been effective in both controlling premiums and ensuring that injured workers continued to have prompt access to qualified doctors to treat their workplace injuries.
Therefore, the task force said, its recommendations focus on revisions and improvements to the 2007 statute — not a wholesale rejection of that law and replacement of it with an entirely new system.
The task force’s recommendations fall into four areas:
• Place tighter controls on workers’ comp medical costs. These recommendations include a two-year inflation freeze on the fee schedule for medical treatment of workers’ comp recipients, a permanent reduction in the inflation rate allowed for hospital treatment of workers’ comp recipients, and reductions in allowed reimbursements in a variety of medical categories.
• Ensure that insurance carriers’ requests for rate increases receive a high level of scrutiny. These recommendations include the retention of a part-time attorney to represent businesses during the workers’ comp rate-setting process, and a system to ensure that insurers are diligently enforcing the state’s medical cost controls.
• Make the state’s laws encouraging injured workers to return to work more effective; and
• Improve the state’s workplace safety program to both increase its usage and ensure that it accurately determines which workplaces are using appropriate safety practices.
Source: State of Delaware government website