Tuesday, April 19, 2011

We're Not in Kansas Anymore

My son just finished his high school's production of The Wizard of Oz - he played the cowardly lion and of course soloed with "Courage."

So it seems that Kansas also mustered up the "courage" to pass into law the most sweeping changes to that state's workers compensation laws since 1993.

It took a long time for the heartland state to jump on the band wagon of "reform"!

Some of the encouraging (and I might add, trendy) changes implemented include rebuttable presumptions of non-compensability where intoxication from drugs, chemical test mandates where there is "suspicion" of impairment leading to injury, adjustment to apportionment standards (so the employer pays only for what was caused by the industrial incident - more easily said than done!) and an increase in benefits in compromise to more the conservative standards.

One element that is discouraging is the attempt to restrict work comp benefits to those injuries where work was the "prevailing factor".

The Kansas legislature makes a big deal out of eliminating "loopholes" created by judicial interpretation over the years, and yet they hand the judiciary some phoney-baloney standard that is just waiting for "liberalization" by the courts.

Kansas - if you don't want the judiciary "changing" your laws, then don't hand them a standard that requires interpretation. And why the "prevailing factor" anyhow? Why drive claims to court on causation? Is this a shift in the cost of medical care to the general health system?

In my opinion restricting claims to a "prevailing factor" impedes the century of compromise between business and labor, and demonstrate that work comp continues to erode into irrelevancy. Why bother? Let's just give everyone employed medical treatment regardless of causation. Let causation be a factor only regarding indemnity issues...

Seems the controversy is not just in Kansas anymore.

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