Workers’ Comp, Identity Theft Bills Pass Texas House

March 23, 2007

Texas State Rep. Helen Giddings announced that four bills she sponsored that deal with workers’ compensation and identity theft passed the House of Representatives and will proceed to the Senate.

The first of the four bills to pass, HB 886, modifies the pilot program for return to work grants. This program grants up to $2,500 to a small employer who makes workplace modifications for an injured employee to come back to work. Currently, small business owners are not taking advantage of this program because they are not guaranteed reimbursement for their improvements.

Giddings explains, “Under HB 886, the small business owner would have the option of submitting a plan to DWC for preauthorization. This is not a prepayment plan; instead, this bill allows employers to make modifications with the assurance they will be paid under the program. In Texas, we want to encourage workers to return to work as soon as they are able, and in turn we want to encourage employers to do all they can to facilitate the employee’s return.”

HB 887 would extend the statute of limitations from three years to seven years for certain identity theft related crimes: credit card or debit card abuse, false statement to obtain property or credit, and fraudulent use or possession of identifying information. The announcement said Texas ranks 4th in the number of identity theft victims in the nation.

“As a victim of identity theft I know first hand how devastating the crime is to the victim. Sometimes, a person does not discover that his or her identity has been stolen for months or even years after it occurs. Furthermore, an investigation for an identity theft can often take longer than an investigation of other crimes, and it is important that we give law enforcement agents and district attorneys the tools they need to prosecute these criminals,” Giddings said.

HB 1006 and HB 1003 solve similar problems by requiring that all doctors participating in the Workers’ Compensation system be licensed to practice medicine in Texas, which Giddings said is not the case currently. Neither utilization review doctors, who review a case for medical necessity, nor independent review organization doctors, who participate in dispute resolution, are required to be licensed doctors in the state of Texas.

Giddings explains, “Clearly our current situation is problematic. Doctors licensed in Texas should be the only doctors allowed to practice medicine in Texas. It is unacceptable to allow out-of-state doctors to make medical decisions for our citizens. The state of Texas cannot even sanction doctors who do not have a license in this state. House Bills 1003 and 1006 are desperately needed to solve this issue.”

Source: Texas House of Representatives

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