Reforming workers’ comp in Virginia

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The deck is greatly stacked against workers, so any actual reform should help:

A new bill passed by Virginia’s state senate would require the Workers Compensation Commission authority to set fee schedules, the way many states already do. Hospitals, doctors, and healthcare providers would have pre-established fees to charge when treating workplace injuries.

“Virginia has some of the lowest workers compensation insurance rates in the nation,” according to a Feb. 1 Daily Press article.

However, workers’ comp is not easily obtained in Virginia, where injured workers “can be required to prove a cause and effect between the work they did and the injury they suffered.” The new legislation aims to help make it easier for employees to receive workers’ comp, and to be fair to the employers and healthcare providers.

Fees would be based on the amounts the healthcare providers actually received in 2014 and would be adjusted for inflation. The new fees would take effect in 2018, with each of Virginia’s six regions matched with its own fee schedule.

Doctors and hospitals have been hesitant to embrace this plan, although Henrico Del. Peter Farrell (R-56th), who wrote the bill, says the aim is to be fair to both employers and healthcare providers. Cuts in Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates have made doctors and hospitals reluctant, but they have not opposed the proposal, says the Daily Press.

Loudoun injury attorney T.C. Soldan said, “Workplace accidents can sometimes lead to serious injuries. It is important that employees feel comfortable requesting workers’ compensation, and that employers and healthcare providers feel that the process is fair.”

As of Feb. 18, the bill unanimously passed the Committee on Commerce and Labor and is to be discussed by the Committee on Appropriations, which will assess its fiscal impact.