Coalition Memo Urges Support for Legislation to Address Workers’ Compensation Case

The PA Chamber organized a multi-industry coalition letter last week urging House lawmakers to sign on as cosponsors and lend support to soon-to-be-introduced legislation that would accommodate a recent state Supreme Court decision related to workers’ compensation.

In August, the court ruled in the Protz v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board case to throw out Impairment Rating Evaluations that have been integral over the last two decades in bringing structure, fairness and stability to the workers’ compensation system. Conducted by physicians using guidelines from the American Medical Association, IREs have been part of the system since 1996 to assess an injured employee’s level of impairment and determine if they should receive lifetime wage benefits. When the court made its ruling, the PA Chamber issued a press release that warned business leaders about the significant cost hikes they could see in the near future and called for a legislative remedy.

The coalition letter stresses that the court’s decision to declare IREs unconstitutional was only made because AMA guidelines are updated periodically (twice since the law was first enacted) and therefore, since the current version differs from the version used in 1996, the Court said their use is an unconstitutional delegation of authority. Both House and Senate Labor and Industry Committee Chairs Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin, and Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, respectively, have indicated their intention to introduce legislation that aims to fix this issue by updating the law with the most recent edition of the AMA guidelines and applying it to current and future claims. Chairman Kauffman hosted an informational committee meeting on the topic last Wednesday.

“IREs also helped stabilize the overall workers’ compensation system which had experienced massive cost increases in the late 1980s and early 1990s,” the coalition wrote. “We urge you to cosponsor this legislation.”