PCI Says: N.C. Legislature Passed Important Workers’ Comp Reforms

August 26, 2005

As North Carolina lawmakers prepare for adjournment after a long session, they can claim credit for passing important reforms to the state’s workers compensation system and identity theft protection legislation this week.

“This session the Legislature took an important first step in addressing some of the problems within the North Carolina workers compensation system with House Bill 99,” said Robert Herlong, vice president and regional manager for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI). “The bill sets the stage for the most controversial issues such as caps on benefits and asbestos reform to be addressed by a study commission. As our push for workers compensation reform continues, we look forward to working with the members of the study commission and seizing this opportunity to achieve even more significant reform in the 2006 legislative session.”

The new law will shift the burden of proof to the employee when suspected alcohol or drug use may be involved in an accident, extend the time for the investigation of claims, provide better access to medical records, and increase the authority of the commission to deal with fraudulent conduct.

In other action this year, North Carolina joined the growing number of states to pass identity theft protection laws. Backed by Attorney General Roy Cooper, Senate Bill 1048 will allow consumers to block access to their credit reports to prevent identity theft. However, the bill will not prevent insurers from using credit information in setting or adjusting a rate, a claim or for underwriting. The bill will also limit the use of Social Security numbers and be notified about data security breaches.

“With the recent high profile data security breaches, many consumers are concerned about ID theft,” Herlong said. “Insurers take very seriously their responsibility to safeguard their consumers’ personal information. We support reasonable legislation that provides appropriate notification. Within the insurance industry, companies are already audited by the states to ensure that there are effective safeguards in place to protect consumer information and as a result do not need additional legislation.”

Lawmakers rejected a series of bills that would have adversely affected the ability of insurers to cost-effectively repair damaged vehicles. House Bill 1526 (Senate Bill 1141) would have removed the deductible on windshield repairs. House Bill 1244 went beyond the normal wording for anti-steering legislation by prohibiting an insurer from even suggesting the use of a particular motor vehicle repair service or a particular automobile glass repair replacement service unless a referral is expressly requested by the claimant. Senate Bill 795 would have prohibited an insurer from authorizing or requiring the use of non-original crash repair parts for motor vehicle repairs without consents from the insured or claimant. PCI has consistently lobbied against these types of anti-consumer legislation in North Carolina and other states.

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