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March 9, 2006

Workers' Compensation Roundup

A number of workers’ compensation bills will be heard today in the House Economic Matters Committee. Chamber Vice President of Government Affairs Heather Hamilton will present the Chamber’s position to the committee. Special thanks to the Chamber’s Workers’ Comp Go-To Guy, Mike Levin of Dirska & Levin, and all the members of the Chamber’s Workers’ Compensation Subcommittee, for their work this session.

Bills that will be heard today include:

HB 523, Workers’ Compensation - Accidental Personal Injury – Definition: The Maryland Chamber supports this bill, because it clarifies the definition of accidental personal injury in Maryland, codifying current practice. Carriers are handling claims consistent with the proposed definition in this Bill.

HB 543, Workers’ Compensation - Permanent Partial Disability - Petition to Reopen: The Maryland Chamber supports this Bill because it alters the way benefits are calculated when a claim goes from the first tier of PPD to the second tier, to mirror the way benefits are calculated when a claim moves from the second tier to “serious disability.” HB 713, Workers’ Compensation - Evaluation of Permanent Impairments - Social Workers: The Maryland Chamber opposes this bill. This legislation authorizes certified social workers- clinical to assign permanency ratings in workers’ compensation cases, adding a very subjective element to the case. Social workers are seldom involved with the treatment of workplace injuries; many employers believe that adding this social element into a case injects a substantive element that has nothing to do with the industrial effects of a workplace injury.

HB 749, Medical Records - Permitted Disclosures - Work-Related Injury or Occupational Disease: The Maryland Chamber supports this bill. Under current law, medical records are already required to be given to the other party. This Bill basically cleans up a provision within a Bill that passed last year, which complicates the timeline in these cases, causing unnecessary delays, and thus levels the playing field for all parties. In some cases, employers/carriers are not able to obtain a worker’s medical records before a hearing, which impedes their ability to fairly assess these cases.

HB 1018, Workers’ Compensation - Temporary Total Disability – Exclusions: The Maryland Chamber supports this bill. Under current law, if a retiree re-injures an injury from when he/she was previously employed, a carrier must pay TTD benefits even though the injured party is retired and does not want to return to the workforce. As for prisoners, they continue to receive TTD benefits even while they are in prison. Under the Bill, both practices would be prohibited and, in addition, a prisoner would be prohibited from seeking back benefits when he/she is released from prison.

HB 1019, Workers’ Compensation Commission - Stay of an Order Pending an Appeal: The Maryland Chamber supports this bill. Under current law, a PPD (permanent partial disability) award must be paid immediately after the Workers’ Compensation Commission enters an order. This bill allows the court discretion to grant a stay in a workers’ compensation case, while requiring the employer/carrier to post a bond (to be used as collateral) pending the outcome of the appeal. An employer/carrier, thus, does not have to pay benefits until a judgment is rendered.

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