Why workers comp. agreement is important

Published 5:40 pm Saturday, April 18, 2015

We all know that accidents can happen anytime, anywhere. But workers’ compensation laws are in place in every state to protect employees against loss of income and for medical payments because of work-related injuries, accidents, illness or disease. When an accident happens that sends an employee to the hospital the employer’s workers compensation insurance pays the medical bills. This system is important to protect employees, however it’s an expensive and complex system that employers and labor groups have tangled over for years.

Dan Sparks

Dan Sparks

To help deal with disagreements the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council was created in 1992 as a permanent council to address issues and recommend legislation pertaining to workers’ compensation. The WCAC consists of 12 voting members representing organized labor, Minnesota businesses as well as majority and minority leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives. This group has made a big difference in resolving differences over the years and reaching agreements to update and reform the system.

We all know that the cost of health care in general is a national concern, and within our work comp system that issue is often magnified. At one time the system was more driven by benefits but that has changed and now medical expenses account for the majority of the costs. There has been a long effort to address the payment system under work comp and the council has finally negotiated an agreement that makes a big first step in that direction.

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The recommendations representing a bipartisan agreement will begin to lower costs and provide for a more efficient workers’ compensation system. The bill, S.F. 2056 changes the way hospitals are reimbursed for workers’ compensation billing and insists on prompt payment for hospital bills. If this bill is passed, it will go into effect on January 1, 2016. The legislation focuses on inpatient hospital care, which represent 25% of system health care costs, but triggers are included to begin reforming payments for other forms of medical services.

I am really proud of the agreements and work that has went into negotiating this bill. To have a piece of legislation that business groups and labor can agree on is something I am happy to chief author. While we can all agree that workers’ compensation is really important, it’s also key to have a system that works well and is fair to all participants. I am confident this agreement will serve Minnesota workers and employers well.

This week my bill passed out of the Senate Jobs, Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, which I chair, its next stop is the Senate State and Local Government Committee.

If there are any issues you’d like to see addressed please feel free to contact my office at (651) 296-9248.


Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, is the state senator for District 27.