The Kentucky House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would mark the biggest overhaul of the state’s workers’ compensation benefits system in decades. If the bill is signed into law, it would significantly impact the benefits available to injured workers, in part by imposing new time limits.
HB 2: Business Friendly or Unnecessary?
On February 21, 2018, House Bill 2 (HB 2) passed the Republican-led House on a 55-39 vote following a long and contentious debate. The vote fell largely along party lines, though several Republicans, mostly from the eastern part of the state, voted against HB 2, while a couple of Democrats supported the measure. The bill now heads to the Kentucky Senate.
Advocates for HB 2 have argued that it would enhance Kentucky’s business competitiveness, while opponents claim there is no justification for changing the state’s workers’ compensation benefits system because the insurance premiums paid by Kentucky employers have already been falling.
15-Year Cap on Workers’ Compensation Benefits
The most significant proposal in HB2 would implement a 15-year cap on workers’ compensation medical benefits for permanent partial disability (PPD) claims. Currently, injured workers with PPD claims are entitled to receive medical benefits for the duration of their disability.
While the majority of these claimants eventually return to work, critics argue that such injuries could result in lingering medical conditions that need treatment far beyond the 15-year cap.
“And at that time, the burden of this medical liability will have been shifted directly back to them,” said Rep. Al Gentry, a Louisville Democrat who lost an arm in an injury years ago and who opposed the bill. “And if they’re on Medicare or Medicaid at the time, it’s directly shifted back to the taxpayer.”
Recertification Filings and Other Changes
Perhaps in anticipation of such criticisms, an amendment was added prior to HB 2’s passage that would allow PPD claimants to make recertification filings following the 15-year mark that, if approved, would let them continue receiving medical benefits. While this amendment could allow for more flexibility, Rep. Gentry noted that the claimant would be forced to shoulder the costs of trying to win the extended medical benefits through the recertification process.
Supporters of HB 2 pointed out that any changes it imposes would only affect future cases stemming from workplace injuries, not people who are already receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Additionally, proponents noted that permanently, totally disabled workers would still receive lifetime medical benefits.
Other elements of the measure that passed include an increase in the state average weekly wage, a time limit on the ability of injured workers to reopen a claim, an increase on the cap on attorneys’ fees from $12,000.00 to $18,000.00, and the termination of indemnity benefits at age 67 or two years after an injury, whichever comes later.
Chicago Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
It can be challenging to stay current with the many potential changes in today’s workers’ compensation benefits systems. For this reason, many injured workers may find that they value the guidance of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney, like the Chicago workers’ compensation attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers.
If you have been injured in the workplace, please contact GWC today to schedule a free consultation with one of our workers’ compensation attorneys. Call our office at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with one of our representatives.