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Worker’s Comp bill introduced in Senate Labor Committee

After languishing for more than two months with no authors, the worker’s compensation (WC) “agreed-to” bill establishing a fee schedule for health care services provided to injured workers was introduced by the Wisconsin State Senate’s Labor Committee on Tuesday. This rare procedural step signals continuing difficulties for the bill to get traction in the state legislature, as no individual legislators have shown their willingness to be a named author.

Every two years the state’s Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council (WCAC) submits draft legislation to the legislature altering Wisconsin’s worker’s compensation statutes and administrative code. Bargaining to a consensus, members of the state’s labor and business communities are supposed to consult with four non-voting health care liaisons to the WCAC if an issue has the possibility of affecting how injured workers would have access to and receive health care. That consultation has dwindled to near nil over the past six years, forcing health care to oppose bills both this session and in the 2013-2014 legislative biennium that have included a health care services fee schedule.

While the management side of the WCAC—led by Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce—has claimed health care costs are negatively affecting the WC system, the WCAC’s health care liaisons (which include the Society and the state’s hospital, physical therapy and chiropractic associations) have highlighted the fact that state businesses are enjoying a $170 million reduction in WC insurance premiums as of October 1. This 8.46 percent reduction is the largest rate reduction since 1995 and is the fourth drop in the last six years. Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s health care system returns workers to the job site an average of three weeks faster than the rest of the country while leading the nation in patient satisfaction and quality of care.

Adding to the storm clouds over the bill: statements from key political players in the State Capitol. The chief of staff for Senate Labor Committee chair Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, stated that his boss would not vote for the bill if it included the fee schedule but wanted to introduce the bill in order to fulfil a promise to hold a public hearing on the measure. On Wednesday during his end-of-year interviews with media, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, also poured cold water on the proposal, citing the lack of a crisis in the state’s WC system.

The Senate Labor public hearing is expected in January 2018. As of this afternoon, no companion bill has been seen in the State Assembly. Society members are still encouraged to share opposition to the fee schedule proposal with their state elected officials. You can see more facts and data about the state’s WC success story in this handout from the health care liaisons.

For more information, contact Mark Grapentine, JD, in the Society’s Government Relations Department.

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