PCI Reports on Positive Components of Vermont Workers’ Comp Bill

February 6, 2004

A bill aimed at reportedly making badly needed changes to the workers’ compensation laws in Vermont has some very positive components, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).

“House 632 is a comprehensive measure that addresses many of the issues that we, and you, have been wrestling with over the past several months,” said PCI New England Regional Manager Frank O’Brien in comments to the House Committee on Commerce.

“While there are no easy answers to these issues, passage of this bill should significantly improve the system by simplifying some processes and rationalizing others. In this regard, PCI is especially supportive of the sections of the bill pertaining to changes to the calculation of benefits and limiting cost of living adjustments to permanent total disability. We urge the committee to move these changes forward.”

The bill would reportedly simplify the current formula that determines the rate of compensation for an injured worker and would eliminate the present situation in which injured workers may actually receive benefits that exceed their normal take home pay from work. Also, Vermont law currently allows benefits for “temporary total disability” (TTD) to continue without limit.. House 632 would limit the temporary status to a term of two years. “After two years, it’s hard to argue that the injury is temporary,” added O’Brien.

While PCI said it feels this measure represents an improvement to the current system, there are several areas with which PCI reportedly has concerns.

“In particular, it is ironic that the bill removes the mandatory 90-day trigger on vocational rehabilitation, and replaces it with a new mandate for medical case management. Both the existing and proposed mandate remove the discretion of the employer and insurer to provide such services only in cases where it is necessary or desirable. As a result, this provision limits common sense and flexibility while it replaces one mandated expense with another,” said O’Brien

PCI also noted that the bill reportedly proposes unreasonably stiff penalties for insurers when benefits are not paid in a timely fashion and urged the committee to consider some gradation in the penalty or some discretion regarding its application.

PCI member companies write approximately 45 percent of the workers’ comp insurance sold in Vermont.

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