Workers Compensation Reform in Washington

On May 25th the state Legislature delivered a package of five bills overhauling Washington’s workers’ compensation system for signature into law.

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-Seattle said that the aim of the bills is to strike a “fair and reasonable” balance for injured workers. The bills were strongly opposed by labor groups on the grounds that the new legislation could lead to reduced payments and decreased benefits that injured workers otherwise may have been entitled to receive.

There are two major reforms, the Statewide Provider Network/COHE expansion (SB5801) and the Settlement Option, Return-to-Work, and Disability System Changes (HB 2123). Each bill brings into effect its own new sets of rules and guidelines.

The Statewide Provider Network bill creates a single statewide provider network for the treatment of injured workers of state fund and self-insured employers and requires the expansion of the Centers of Occupational Health and Education (COHE). The provider network will be set up by 2013 with further initiatives and provider tiers to be introduced through 2015.

The Settlement Option, Return-to-Work, and Disability System Changes bill introduces several new and revised options for settling claims, suspends cost of living adjustments for 2012, and provides for several new initiatives and funds. Starting in 2012, workers over 55 will be eligible for the Claim Resolution Settlement option, with other age groups becoming eligible in 2015 (53+) and 2016 (50+).

The combined bills aim to save approximately over $1.5 billion between 2012 and 2015.

We will keep you up-to-date over the next few weeks as the bill gets signed into law.

If you have questions, please feel free to email me at mdbask@psfinc.com

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