Texas Workers’ Comp Bill Moves to Senate Floor

March 8, 2005

The Texas Senate reported that the Senate State Affairs Committee finished work on Senate Bill 5, which would make drastic changes to the state’s workers’ compensation system.

Sen. Todd Staples of Palestine, who sponsored SB 5, said the state must reform workers’ comp, because the state pays far too much for treatment for injured workers, without seeing comparable results. According to Staples, workers comp in Texas costs about 25 percent more in Texas than the national average. SB 5 would make a number of changes in an effort to improve treatment of injured workers in order to get them back to work faster, while bringing down the overall cost.

SB 5 would eliminate the current 6-member commission that oversees workers comp issues in the state in favor of a single commissioner. According to Staples, a single commissioner would be better able to respond to market changes, and would be more accountable to citizens and workers.

The legislation would also create a workers’ comp treatment network, based on the model of network health care currently used by many businesses. It would reduce the time an injured worker would have to wait before he or she could seek treatment from the workers comp system. SB 5 would also mandate close co-operation between the Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission and the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitation Services. The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

Senators added a number of amendments to the bill in committee. One amendment allows certain exemptions from the network system in cases involving emergency care, outside referrals, or special consideration if a patient lives outside of a network area. Another amendment preserves the rights of patients to choose who treats them within the network.

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