Workers’ Comp Rises on Texas’ Legislative Horizon

Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst announced the formation of the Senate Select Committee on Workers’ Compensation to work on solutions to what he called a developing crisis in workers’ comp.

Senator Todd Staples was appointed chairman of the committee, and Sen. John Carona (R-Dallas), Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock), Sen. Craig Estes (R-Wichita Falls), Sen. Juan Hinojosa (D-McAllen), Sen. Kyle Janek (R-Houston), Sen. Frank Madla (D-San Antonio), Sen. Jane Nelson (R-Flower Mound) and Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) were appointed as committee members.

“In Texas we have a developing workers’ compensation crisis that’s affecting our workforce, our doctors, and our businesses, both small and large,” Lt. Governor Dewhurst said at a press conference. “As costs continue to rise, we’re going to see more and more businesses either leave the state, or be forced out of the system. The bottom line is that we need to provide quality care for our injured workers, at prices that don’t force businesses out of Texas.”

Citing a lack of cost controls in the workers’ compensation system, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst addressed the need to look at what other states do to manage their costs while providing quality care for injured workers. “We want our injured workers treated and returned to good health. Other states appear to achieve this same goal with fewer doctor visits and stricter protocols,” Dewhurst said. “Equally important, at a time when we have pressure to reduce medical provider rates, I want to protect our good doctors and keep them practicing medicine.”

Among the committee’s charges are:

Examining the status of the Health Care Network Advisory Committee’s (HNAC) and the Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission’s implementation of the regional workers’ compensation health care delivery networks outlined in Article 2 of HB 2600 (77th Legislature, 2001);
• Studying the potential impact of networks on the workers’ compensation health care delivery system;
• Studying the impact of the Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission’s 2002 Medical Fee Guideline on access to quality medical care for injured workers and medical costs;
• Surveying the costs and benefits of other health system cost-containment strategies as they relate to medical, therapeutic, and pharmaceutical care;
• Conducting a cost-benefit analysis which compares the Texas workers’ compensation system to systems operating in other states and making recommendations to improve the quality of care for injured workers, reduce fraud and inefficiencies, reduce overall claim costs, and streamline the administration of the system; and
• Studying the efficiency and effectiveness of the state workers’ compensation system.