AIA: Alaska Workers’ Comp Conference Report Raises Some Concerns

May 17, 2005

A workers’ compensation conference report approved during a special session of the Alaska Senate includes several new issues that raise a red flag for insurers and employers, according to the American Insurance Association (AIA).

“The conference report approved on Friday raises some serious concerns,” said Janine Gibford, AIA assistant vice president, western region. “We are still reviewing the 52 pages of the report, but our initial review indicates that it has some real problems. For example, the ‘palliative care’ language in the bill provides no opportunity for an insurance carrier or employer to question a medical treatment decision. This one-sided change to the system could disrupt fraud prevention and medical cost containment efforts.”

“There is also language in the report that could make employers liable for tort claims beyond the workers’ compensation system,” said Gibford. “Opening access to the tort system goes against the basic tenets of workers’ compensation as the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries.”

“AIA will continue reviewing the conference report, but Alaska House members should take a close look at this language before they give it their stamp of approval,” said Gibford. “Governor Murkowski says he is pushing this reform package as a way to increase competition in the marketplace, but it’s quite possible the language in the conference report will have the opposite effect. AIA will continue working with policymakers to draft legislation that works all stakeholders in the workers’ compensation system — injured workers, employers and insurance carriers.”

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