On Jan. 21, Texas State Sen. Todd Staples presented recommendations on reforming the state’s workers’ compensation system to the Senate State Affairs Committee in the form of Senate Bill 5. The legislation would address a number of shortcomings with the workers’ comp system, according to Staples.
“We spend much more on medical care but our workers miss more time from work and are less likely to return to work,” Staples said in an announcement release by the Senate, “Employers pay high premiums but also suffer under poor outcome.”
According to Staples, Texas employers pay the third highest compensation insurance premiums in the nation, 25 percent higher than the national average, while patients take longer to return to work and report low satisfaction with the system.
Senate Bill 5 proposes a number of changes. Foremost among them would be the abolition of the current 6-member workers’ comp committee and its replacement with a single member commissioner, appointed by the governor and approved by the Senate.
Staples said in testimony that a single commissioner would be more accountable, and would have to be more open to employer and employee feedback. SB 5 would also create workers’ compensation networks, similar to the health care networks used by many companies today that could help reduce the cost of compensation and rehabilitation, as well as allow for more patient choice when it comes to who will treat them. The bill would reduce the time period before an injured worker can seek benefits following a work related injury. The proposed legislation would also mandate close cooperation between the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services and the Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission.
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