Legislative Update

 

On April 2, 2012, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed into law Senate Bill 409, the “agreed bill” developed by the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council.  The Wisconsin Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council is comprised of equal numbers of voting members from business and labor.   

 

The effective date is April 17, 2012. 

 

Some of the provisions included in the “agreed bill” are:

 

          Raises the maximum compensation rate for permanent partial disability benefits $10 per week to $312 for injuries on or after the effective date of this legislation (i.e., April 17, 2012).  .

 

          Raises the maximum compensation rate for permanent partial disability benefits $10 per week to $322 for injuries on or after January 1, 2013. 

 

          Modifies the practice of reducing temporary disability benefits to workers’ receiving vocational rehabilitation services who take part-time jobs.  The change would mean benefits would not be reduced for wages earned for 24 hours a week, but benefits would be reduced based on wages in excess of 24 hours a week.

 

          Changes provisions on compensation for permanent disfigurement to restrict compensation to cases in which an employee suffers “an actual wage loss due to the disfigurement.”

 

          Another change is in response to the Wisconsin Supreme Court decision in Society Insurance v. LIRC regarding traumatic injuries.   In 2006, the Legislature passed an amendment to §102.17(4), which suspended the statute of limitations for certain traumatic injuries.  The July 2010 decision held that the 12-year statute of limitations on filing for workers’ compensation benefits could not be applied retroactively to injuries occurring before April 1, 2006.    The legislation provides that the Work Injury Supplemental Benefit Fund, rather than employers or insurers, will be liable for benefits or treatment expenses for injuries before that date.  There is no statute of limitations for artificial spinal discs, total or partial knee or hip replacements where the date of injury or last payment of compensation was after April 1, 2006. 

 

          Permits the Department of Workforce Development to bring tort actions against third parties to recover damages resulting in injuries, which must be paid by the Work Injury Supplemental Benefit Fund.

 

          Lowers the threshold for challenging whether disputed charges for health care services are reasonable by requiring review of charges for such services using databases maintained by the department to determine an average cost.   Wisconsin does not have a workers’ compensation medical fee schedule.

 

          In retraining cases, Insurance carriers will be responsible for all tuition, books, and fees, regardless if it is a DVR-sponsored plan.

 

          Adjusters will no longer need to submit a final medical report, where the claim was denied and the employee does not dispute.