The times certainly are a-changin’ with the expansion of marijuana legalization across the nation, continuously widening presumptions which include COVID-19, and ever-changing definitions of benefits qualifications and coverage. Much of this current trending legislation can heavily impact workers’ compensation costs.
“Workers’ compensation is a long tail line of coverage, and because of this, it can often take several years after the legislation is enacted for the impact of the changes to show up in the actuarial analysis,” said Mark Walls, Vice President – Client Engagement at Safety National. “It is imperative that employers and carriers monitor new legislation to gauge the potential impact of these changes. NCCI does a great job identifying the important changes and helping the industry understand the potential financial impact to the system from those changes.”
Here are a few highlights from NCCI’s dashboard, covering legislation already enacted in 2022 or set to take place in the near future.
1. Disability Benefits Updates
- As of July 2022, injured workers in Georgia are provided an increase in the maximum temporary total disability (TTD), temporary partial disability (TPD) and permanent partial disability (PPD) compensation benefits, raising rates from $675 to $725 per week. HB 1409 also increases the total compensation payable to a surviving spouse as a sole dependent at the time of death to $290,000.
- Effective January 2024, Oregon bill HB 4138 will amend provisions of workers’ compensation law related to authorization of temporary disability, claim closure and overpayments of compensation. NCCI estimates suggest that this could increase overall system costs.
- Two new bills that took effect in Virginia as of July 2022 will affect disability benefits. SB 351 expands PPD and TTD benefits for injured workers that sustain two catastrophic injuries from a compensable consequence sustained in the same accident. SB 677 amends the cost of living (COLA) statute, so injured workers that are receiving disability benefits, but not federal disability benefits, are still able to receive COLA supplements.
2. First Responder Presumptions
- Cancer benefits for firefighters are being expanded in several states, including Alaska, Connecticut, Maine, Oregon and Tennessee. These changes range from additions to the types of cancer included to the inclusion of forest protection unit employees to the assignments of task forces to study cancer relief benefits.
- HB 453 in Florida will authorize specific physical exams for presumption while also requiring employers to maintain these health records for a specified period.
- In Virginia, SB 562, effective July 2022, provides that the period for filing a workers’ compensation claim for certain cancers is limited to two years after diagnosis or within ten years from the last injurious exposure date in employment, whichever occurs first. However, if an employee is 65 or older, regardless of the date of diagnosis or exposure, they are barred from receiving benefits.
3. Marijuana Legalization
- While marijuana in Maryland is medically legal and decriminalized, if voters approve HB 1 on the ballot in November, HB 837 will legalize it recreationally for residents 21 and older. Legislation is already in place that prohibits employers from discriminating against an individual legally authorized to use medical cannabis. For workers’ compensation benefits, the Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) is also authorized to require employers to provide medical cannabis to an injured employee as part of a medical treatment.
- Mississippi SB 2095 became effective in February 2022, enacting a medical cannabis program in the state. Workers’ compensation insurers are not required to pay or reimburse for costs associated with the use of medical marijuana. This bill limits qualifying conditions to more severe diseases like cancer, Parkinson’s muscular dystrophy or other chronic conditions. It requires practitioners to exhaust all reasonable efforts, such as opioids and experimental treatments, before suggesting cannabis.
- Rhode Island SB 2430 legalized the recreational use of cannabis for adults 21 and over, which will also expunge prior misdemeanor or felony convictions for possession by July 2024. Legalization will not require any government medical assistance program, private health insurer, or workers’ compensation insurer to reimburse an individual for costs associated with medical use. Employers are also not required to accommodate for medical use in the workplace.