The Texas Workers’ Compensation Commission posted an overview of changes to the Texas workers’ compensation system provided in the recently passed House Bill 7. Gov. Rick Perry has signed the bill into law and the changes will be effective Sept. 1, 2005.
Major provisions of HB include the creation of a new division of workers’ compensation at the Texas Department of Insurance to assume the responsibilities of TWCC. A commissioner to be appointed by the governor will oversee the new TDI division.
TWCC noted that HB 7 contains many provisions that will enable improvements to the administration of workers’ comp system, including:
–Allows insurance carriers to create health care networks for the treatment of workers’ compensation injuries;
–Retains the benefit dispute resolution process that includes BRCs, CCHs and Appeals Panel review (with adjustments to address the Sunset recommendations – most of which we have implemented or are well underway);
–Maintains the IRO process but eliminates the appeal of medical disputes to SOAH;
–Increases the enforcement options available to Compliance and Practices, such as eliminating the requirement to prove “willful and intentional” intent and providing increased penalty authority;
–Creates the Office of Injured Employee Counsel to represent the interests of injured workers and provides access to legal resources for the ombudsmen;
–Continues the Approved Doctor List until 9/1/2007;
–Authorizes the workers’ compensation division to adopt any edition of the AMA Guides;
–Increases the state average weekly wage that serves as the foundation for maximum benefit levels;
–Reduces retroactive period for the payment of the first week of income benefits from 4 to 2 weeks; and
–Continues to require carriers to pay claimant attorney fees if carrier appeals to court and loses (removed 9/1/05 Sunset date).
More information about the implementation of HB 7 and changes in governance for the workers’ compensation system will be posted on the TWCC Web site at www.twcc.state.tx.us under “What’s New” in the near future.
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