ICYMI: Workers’ Compensation Bill Passes State Senate

Capitol Building 2Call Governor Wolf’s Office, 717-787-2500, and tell him to VETO HB 1840!

In one of the final acts of the year, the state legislature took aim at workers’ compensation and those severely injured on the job. The State Senate passed House Bill 1840, known as the Protz “fix”, by a vote of 34-15.  In 2017 the State Supreme Court ruled that the impairment rating evaluation methodology of the Workers’ Compensation Act was unconstitutional.  Previously the act had required claimants to rely on the most recent edition of the American Medical Association Impairment Rating Guides.

The AMA guidelines, while appropriate for medical purposes, are not sufficient or fair to disability claims and serious injury.  Those who suffer life-changing injuries on the job have incredible difficulty receiving adequate compensation and difficulty under the previous guidelines.  This week the State Senate sent House Bill 1840 to the Governor’s desk, claiming it was a fix for Workers’ compensation; in reality, it was a return to an unfair and inadequate system.

The Pennsylvania AFL-CIO’s letter to the State Senate urging senators to vote no on the bill stated the following:

“The AMA Guides were improperly engrafted into the workers’ compensation statutory framework to impose a legal fiction. The fiction stands for the proposition that an individual who suffers from the impact of a work-related accident, injury or disease, and who is acknowledged by all involved—worker, employer and insurer—to be totally disabled will, nonetheless, be converted to the legally fictional status of partially disabled exclusively by reference to the AMA Guides. It cannot be overemphasized that, among others, no less than the very author of these AMA guidelines, Dr. Christopher Brigham, M.D., expressly said that they must not be utilized for the purposes of workers’ compensation claims, or workers’ compensation analysis. . .

Moreover, HB 1840 imposes a retroactivity section. When the court struck down the IRE language, it was as if the law never existed. HB 1840 will give insurance companies a credit for all
workers’ compensation payments made regardless of the date of injury. Insurance companies want HB 1840 to impact all old claims dating back to 1997 when Act 57 became law. What they deny is that the language will impose IREs on everyone on workers’ compensation, even those injured before 1997. The matter of retroactivity is a controversial area, and things become problematic by its inclusion in this bill.”