We are now over a month into the 2021 session and it appears much has returned to closer to normal, at least at the Capitol. A number of bills have been introduced that effect the administration of workers’ compensation claims.
HB21-1050 was introduced to making sweeping changes to the Workers’ Compensation Act. The main amendments include:
- Changes regarding that affect the timely payment of benefits (when benefits are deemed “paid”);
- Adding guardian and conservator services (proposed to be paid by Respondents);
- Revising/updating the combined TTD/TPD/PPD benefit cap of § 8-42-107.5, C.R.S. (reducing the cap to 19% whole person from 25%);
- Requires that claimants must submit mileage reimbursement requests within 120 days that the expense is incurred;
- Clarifies that the SSDI offset can only apply if SSDI benefits were received after the date of loss;
- Clarifies/edits the 24 Month Division IME process (for example, defining a “reasonable” time for the ATP to respond to an examining physician’s report prior to requesting the 24 Month Division IME)
- Prohibits an employer ability to withdraw admissions more than 2 years after the admission was filed, except in cases of fraud;
- Clarifies that ALJ’s are prohibited from determining compensability alone unless specific benefits are also awarded/denied (i.e. bringing it in line with a “final appealable” judgment).
This has recently been assigned over to the committee on appropriations from the House Business Affairs & Labor Committee. There, the fiscal note and impact will be assessed prior to sending to the House floor for a vote. This bill appears to have both bipartisan support and support from both the claimant and defense bar, so it would appear this is aiming at passing.
A companion bill, HB 21-1207 regarding Overpayment of Workers’ Compensation Benefits seeks to limit the definition of “overpayment” under the act to only include benefits paid as the result of fraud or duplicate benefits that result from offsets or wages from employment. This bill was recently referred to the Committee of the Whole for a vote on April 1, 2021.
On March 24, 2021, SB21-197 “Workers’ Compensation Physician” was introduced and assigned to the Business, Labor, & Technology Committee, no action has been taken in the past two weeks, however. This bill would revise the current mechanism of selecting treating doctors, permitting the injured worker to choose a level I or level II accredited physician on a Division form within seven days of the injury. Only if the injured worker is unwilling or unable to make that timely selection would the employer be able to choose the initial provider. Simply, this bill would flip the right of selection in favor of the injured worker.
Of interest, there does not appear to be any interest in attempting to reintroduce a COVID presumption bill (that failed last year) on compensable work injuries for certain employees.
The session will end later than in prior years – on June 12, 2021.