Workers' Compensation Reforms in the 2017-18 State Budget
On April 10, 2017 Governor Cuomo signed the 2018 State Budget and associated bills. This includes Senate Bill S2009C which contains many changes to the New York Workers’ Compensation Law. Below is a brief summary of these legislative changes and how they may positively or negatively affect New York employers.
Potentially Good for employers:
Maximum Medical Improvement Classification Capped at 2.5 Years: Temporary disability benefits are limited to 2.5 years, after which payments of temporary benefits are credited to permanency determinations.
Creation of a Prescription Drug Formulary: A new list of high quality, cost-effective medications pre-approved for injured workers will be developed and released by the end of 2017.
New Medical Impairment Guidelines: These guidelines, which have not been updated since 1994, are used to determine the nature and extent of permanent residual disability in New York. The procedures for determining Schedule Loss of Use injuries will be reevaluated once the Workers’ Compensation Board implements new guidelines by January 1, 2018 which will take into account current advancements in medical science.
Potentially Bad for Employers:
Permanent partially disabled claimants will no longer have to establish that they have not “voluntarily removed” themselves from the workforce to remain eligible for ongoing partial disability benefits.
The “safety net” is being lowered from greater than 80% partial disability to greater than 75% partially disabled in order to qualify for extended permanent disability benefits when the initial allocation expires.
Other Items of Note:
In the event a first responder including; Police, Firefighter or EMT/Paramedic files a claim for a mental injury due to work related stress, the Workers Compensation Board may not disallow that claim even if there is factual findings that the stress was not greater than that what occurs in their normal work environment.
Expedited hearings (within 45 days) will be granted to claimants in cases where the employer is not paying benefits but has not controverted the claim.
The utilization of Independent Medical Examinations will be comprehensively evaluated to ensure high quality, fairness and to combat fraud.