Gov. Frank Murkowski has signed into law the most comprehensive reform of the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Act since statehood following a speech to the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce Tuesday.
Senate Bill 130, which was submitted by request of the governor, makes significant changes in the state’s workers’ comp system in an effort to arrest escalating insurance costs and to encourage greater insurer participation in Alaska’s workers’ comp market.
The new law establishes a Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission made up of individuals experienced in workers’ comp issues to resolve appeals from the Workers’ Compensation Board formerly heard by state superior courts.
SB 130 also reforms the standard for determining when an employer must pay an injured worker and establishes a fraud investigation section, administrative fines for uninsured employers and a Benefit Guaranty Fund that uses those fines to pay benefits to injured workers. In addition, the new law makes several important changes to address growing medical costs, including provisions to make more effective use of generic drugs.
“Alaska’s Workers Compensation premiums are the second highest in the nation and we have seen businesses close and still other businesses elect not to hire new workers as a result,” Murkowski said. “This state sorely needed a means to control these costs and this bill begins the process.”
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