More New Workers Compensation Laws – 2023 Legislative Update
Recording of Compelled Medical Exams (or IMEs) was the big news for injured workers this legislative session (see our prior blog post), but the Legislature passed a couple of additional bills as well which affect L & I claims and consumers.
You might have heard about the “good faith” bill (HB 1521) that passed regarding self-insurers and TPAs, or third-party administrators. TPAs are entities like Sedgwick, Eberle Vivian and the like. Unfortunately, this bill only applies to public employees. That’s good news if you work for a public entity, bad news if you don’t.
The “good faith” bill requires that in managing a claim, equal weight must now be given to the worker and their well-being as well as the financial interest of the TPA and employer. We will have to wait and see what that means in practice, but for now, it is a positive development for some workers. Shout out to Rep. Dan Bronoske, also a firefighter, who sponsored and supported both the CME bill and the good faith bill. Labor and the Trial Lawyers are committed to extending the “good faith” protections to all employers. More to come on that.
Another important bill that passed adds direct-patient-care Registered Nurses to the list of workers whose Post Traumatic Stress Disorder claims are presumed to be occupational diseases, and thus work-related. (SB 5454) Before this bill passed, those claims were rejected by the Department.
For injured workers with mental health only claims, psychologists (Ph.D. level) can now act as attending providers. (HB 1197) This is a good development, but we feel it needs to apply to claims where there are physical as well as mental health conditions involved in the claim.
Other consumer-friendly bills that passed: “My Health, My Data” (HB 1155), creating strong consumer privacy protections around healthcare information, and the “Fair Shot Act” (SB 5173), increasing the value limits for exemption of personal property limits from attachment, execution or garnishment.
One important bill that did NOT pass was an attempt by the Legislature to create a new light-duty return to work program. The flaw in this program, in our opinion, is that it would allow an employer to force an injured employee to accept light duty at another place of work, specifically a “non-profit” of the employer’s choosing. We feel that an employer should not be able to force an injured worker to work at a non-profit they might disagree with, or one who might not be fully aware of their limitations. Additionally, there are real privacy concerns. The light duty system as it currently exists is fraught with danger and subject to abuse already, so expanding this program is a bad idea. The bill did not pass but will most likely be back in the Legislature again next session.
As always, feel free to call if you have any questions about how these new laws apply to your case.
Here are links to the bills mentioned in this post:
Good Faith Bill : https://legiscan.com/WA/text/HB1521/2023
RNs and PTSD: https://legiscan.com/WA/bill/SB5454/2023
Psychologists as AP: https://legiscan.com/WA/bill/HB1197/2023
My Health, My Data: https://legiscan.com/WA/bill/HB1155/2023
Fair Shot Act: https://legiscan.com/WA/bill/SB5173/2023