In a process started in 2014, Tennessee lawmakers and business people from all industries have been working together to improve the workers’ compensation system in the state: decreasing operation costs, streamlining the process, and providing continued coverage for workers in the state. Some residents and employees had feared that cuts to workers’ comp in the name of cost saving would result in diminished protection for workers. Results thus far have been mixed: businesses are enjoying the savings while some workers’ benefits payments and durations have been severely limited.
Saving money, without sacrificing workers’ wellbeing?
The new legislation began its lifecycle in 2013, so the new data being produced is a follow-up to see whether the positive trends and predictions have been born out in the real world. The bill had four areas of intention and effect:
- Procedural changes, including the creation of an administrative adjudication of workers’ comp claims, rather than a judicial one, intended to streamline and speed up the process.
- Compensation changes, broadening slightly the scope of workers’ comp covered injuries.
- Medical changes, particularly to create the Medical Payment Committee, whose role is to advise administrators and mediate between insurance companies and providers.
- Indemnity changes, extending the duration of temporary disability benefits and changing how disability benefits are calculated.
All of these changes have been working their way through the system for almost four years, and the results are beginning to become clear. According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance, for the seventh consecutive year Tennessee has lowered its workers’ compensation insurance premium costs, for a sum total of over 36%. Businesses are clearly enjoying the lowered insurance premium costs, but how are workers responding?
Clear benefits and efficiency, but also caveats
One issue that has been raised was the efficacy of creating entirely new bureaucracies like the Medical Payment Committee, a Court of Workers’ Compensation Claims, and a Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. Creating these entities in an attempt to streamline the workers’ comp process seemed counterintuitive. However, the results seem to support the original intention. Prior to the 2013 changes, the average amount of time from when a worker was injured on the job to completion of treatment and payment was 263 weeks; now that time is a mere 49 weeks. This speaks to a speed of processing far more efficient than previously seen. However, it is possible that the rush to complete a claim and payment process has outpaced the reality of how many serious job-related injuries heal, and the long-term repercussions of such injuries. The cost savings is undeniable, which is good for business. But is the sprint too fast for workers’ best interests and health?
The workers’ compensation system is a complex one. By working with the Chattanooga workers’ comp lawyers of Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law, our full knowledge, experience, and resources will be at your disposal to fight for justice. We serve clients in Chattanooga and Cleveland, TN, and all the surrounding counties. We also help workers in Northern Georgia. Call us today at 423-799-3532 or complete our contact form to schedule your free consultation.