Workers’ Compensation Reform in PA and House Bill 1840
August 21, 2018
Proposed House Bill 1840 was recently passed in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and is now before the Senate. If passed and signed by Governor Tom Wolf, the bill would reform the state workers’ compensation system by reinstating impairment ratings for injured workers. HB 1840 is the subject of controversy between employers who support the bill and employees who are fighting against it.
Constitutionality of Impairment Rating Evaluations
The proposed bill would reinstate impairment rating evaluations, which were deemed unconstitutional in 2017. Under the old provision of Pennsylvania’s 1996 workers’ compensation reforms, employers could request an impairment evaluation of any employee who had been out of work for 104 weeks. Physicians were required to adhere to the American Medical Association (AMA) Guides in their evaluations.
In Protz v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Derry Area School District), the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the impairment rating process was unconstitutional because the General Assembly improperly delegated authority to the AMA to establish criteria for evaluating workers’ impairments. In that case, a worker with a work-related knee injury was receiving temporary total disability payments. After she was assigned a 10 percent impairment rating, according to the AMA Guide, her employer sought to change her disability benefits to partial based on the evaluation. The Supreme Court agreed with the commonwealth court on appeal and ruled that the provision was unconstitutional.
Lower Workers’ Compensation Premiums
The 1990s reforms contributed to a 62.3 percent reduction in costs, which led to lower insurance premiums. However, because of the court ruling last year, Pennsylvania’s business community faced increased workers’ compensation costs. Many businesses support the bill and hope to see impairment rating evaluations back in effect.
The bill would reinstate the 104-week marker for requesting an impairment rating evaluation, as well as the most recent AMA Guide. HB 1840 also states that a rating of 35 percent or higher qualifies workers for permanent disability, whereas a rating of below 35 percent qualifies them for partial disability. It would also limit workers’ partial disability ratings after 500 weeks so that insurers can seek a medical evaluation based on the AMA Guide.
Injured workers are not as eager for the bill to pass because their workers’ compensation benefits would likely be more limited. However, the bill would also increase the cap on reasonable burial expenses from $3,000 to $7,000. The author of the bill hopes that it will pass the Senate and rectify the impact to Pennsylvania’s business community in a manner that complies with the law.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. Help Workers Obtain Maximum Compensation for their Injuries
If you were injured at work, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Contact an experienced Philadelphia workers’ compensation lawyer at Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C. to discuss your case. We pride ourselves on staying abreast of all developments in workers’ compensation law and our experienced attorneys can help you obtain full and fair compensation for your injuries. We represent workers in Berks County, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County, and throughout Pennsylvania. For a free consultation, call us at 888-PITT-LAW or complete our online contact form.
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