Date ArticleType
3/20/2017 Chamber News
Workers' Compensation Reform: We Need it Now

We are hearing loud and clear from our membership that workers’ compensation costs are out of control. Based on a recent Siena Research Institute survey, 90% of upstate business leaders say workers’ compensation reform is needed. Here is a good example of why employers are frustrated:  right in our own community we found a situation where the workers’ compensation costs for a light manufacturing company are eight times higher in New York compared to locating that same operation across the border in Pennsylvania. Workers’ compensation costs employers in New York State $10 billion each year. Notably, rising workers’ compensation costs are also significantly impacting local governments as well and driving up the cost of local government and property taxes.

We are partnering with over 60 organizations across New York State including the Business Council of New York State with whom we are calling for workers’ compensation reform. We agree with Heather Bricetti of the Business Council of New York State when she stated, “Workers’ compensation was created to help injured workers by replacing lost wages and providing needed medical care, but it isn’t working. Major payments are being made in ways never intended by statute. Our Scheduled Loss of Use (SLU) awards pay large sums for minor injuries that lead to little or no missed time from work. We have replaced fairness with chance and moved away from the fundamental goal of workers’ compensation replacement for lost wages. It’s time for a change.”

There are currently three pieces of legislation proposed in the Assembly and Senate that would accomplish the following:

  1. Correct a flaw in the 2007 workers compensation reforms that have allowed claimant attorneys to extend the total time of benefits beyond the 10 year cap. Currently claims have on average extended beyond the 10 year cap by 4.5 years.
  2. Limits “scheduled loss of use” awards to cases with 85% impairment ratings; in these cases, injured workers would receive the SLU award adjusted for indemnity benefits for lost time. These additional SLU awards have no relationship to lost time or lost earnings. In fact, New York State Workers’ Compensation Board data show that 75 percent of SLU awards are payments in excess of actual lost, while costing the system over $1.2 billion annually. This bill would guaranty that severely injured workers would continue to use the current schedules, while those with less serious injuries, who have missed little time from work, continue to receive workers’ compensation benefits in the exact same way that their colleagues with non-SLU injuries.
  3. Require the Workers’ Compensation Board to release and adopt already completed Impairment Guidelines for the “scheduled loss of us” (SLU) awards. The current guidelines have not been overhauled since 1983, and reflect thirty-year-old medical assumptions. The new guidelines have been developed with input from medical professionals and system stakeholders, which reflect modern medical evidence. Adopting the new impairment guidelines will result in more appropriate calculations for SLU awards.

We encourage and the community to convey a message to Albany that we need a workers’ compensation system that is fair and equitable.  Please call or write our local representatives today.



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