On December 19th, Governor Rick Snyder signed into law HB5002 creating a significant change in the Workers Compensation Statute. This new bill addresses two major areas:
a.) Prior to the signing of this bill, injured employees were able to seek their own medical doctors for treatment or consultation ten days after initial treatment. The new bill mandates the employee wait 28 days, allowing the medical provider selected by the employer/carrier more time to treat, diagnose and evaluate the disease or injury. This should result in lower medical costs and/or immediate medical mainstreaming of the injured employee. Often, workers compensation claims are not even received by the workers compensation carrier until the ninth, tenth or eleventh day, thus handicapping the future adjudicating of the claim.
b.) The new amendment to the workers compensation bill will clarify the “Stokes Decision” and the “Lofton Order” of the Michigan Supreme Court (2008). These decisions required injured workers to seek work when physically able and allowed the employer/carrier to reduce benefits based on the worker’s wage earning capacity. Example: An injured employee with a permanent medical restriction of lifting in excess of 25 pounds, will be required to seek employment elsewhere, in any capacity or industry. The 25 pound limit will still apply but perhaps they can work at Home Depot, Lowes or in another industry. If there is work available to the injured worker, the employer/carrier can reduce benefits by the amount that can be earned. This will have two positive impacts. The injured party will no longer have the attitude of “disability income for life” which will also result in dramatically reduced settlements.
In the long run, we believe this bill should have a positive impact for employers in Michigan; lowering medical expenses, long term disability expenditures and subsequently reducing workers compensation premiums.