PA Chamber Urges Lawmakers to Address Protz Fix

From PA Chamber of Business & Industry

The PA Chamber is urging lawmakers to prioritize the consideration of legislation that would provide a fix to a financially devastating state Supreme Court decision related to workers’ compensation.

Last year, the Court’s decision in the Protz v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board case threw out the Impairment Rating Evaluation process, which for more than 20 years had been a fair and effective way for state-designated physicians to determine whether patients were healthy enough to someday return to work or should continue receiving wage-loss benefits indefinitely. The Court’s ruling – which was essentially based on a technicality – prompted the Pennsylvania Compensation Rating Bureau to file a mid-year loss cost increase, which is raising insurance premiums for Pennsylvania employers and will ultimately impose hundreds of millions of dollars in additional costs every year.

The PA Chamber has since spent time educating the business community about reasons behind these anticipated cost hikes while also advocating for a legislative fix. Senate Bill 963, which passed Committee and awaits further consideration in the Senate, and H.B. 1840, which awaits action by the House Labor and Industry committee, would update Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation law to address the concern raised by the Supreme County. The concern centered on a provision of the Act that directed physicians conducting an IRE to use the most recent edition of American Medical Association guidelines. Since the guidelines are updated by AMA doctors periodically without oversight from the Pennsylvania legislature, the Court ruled the legislature has unconstitutionally delegated authority. The two bills, which were introduced by the respective chairs of the Senate and House Labor and Industry Committees, would address this concern by adopting the most recent edition of the AMA guidelines.

The PA Chamber is coordinating a broad-based coalition of supporters for this legislation. In memos sent to lawmakers earlier this year, the coalition – which is comprised of various business, local government, medical and school board groups – urged support for these bills to help save Pennsylvania employers from this heavy financial burden. “The IRE using AMA guides is a nationally accepted means of adjusting to changes that inevitably occur during the course of an employee’s recovery from injury,” the coalition wrote. “S.B. 963 will help ensure the constitutionality of the IRE process by updating the law with the most recent edition of the AMA guides and applying it to future claims. We urge you to support this bill and help save Pennsylvania employers hundreds of millions of dollars in increased insurance costs.”