Gov. Gregoire signs workers’ comp medical providers reform into law

By | March 14, 2011 | Comments

Gov. Chris Gregoire just signed a bill that is a portion of the proposal that she gave to the Legislature  earlier this year to reform workers’ compensation program.

She said that she anticipates 4-year savings of $218 million.

The bill, SB 5801, will establish an industrial insurance health care provider network and require injured workers to receive care only from a provider that is in the network, as long as one is near by. An exception will be made for the initial visit. Providers will have to adhere to “best practice standards,” defined by the Department of Labor and Industries. There will be incentives, financial and other, for providers to join the network. The bill also requires L&I to put more COHEs – Centers for Occupational Health and Education – around the state.

The hope is that by providing better medical treatment L&I can avoid costly long-term disability claims, get people over their injuries quicker and back to work sooner, and ultimately, lower insurance costs for employers.

The bill’s language calls for all injured workers have access to a COHE by the end of 2015. COHEs focus on the first 12 weeks of care. Hospitals, clinics and providers, multispecialty clinics, health maintenance organizations and organized systems of network physicians can qualify as COHEs.

The bill unanimously passed out of the Senate (48-0) in February. In the House earlier this month, it only got one nay vote in the house (96-1). It contains an emergency clause and takes effect on July 1, 2011.

There are still several reform bills making their way through the legislature. I just asked the governor what she thinks of the House-backed plan to allow retro-groups to manage some claims. She said she is still studying that bill and is not yet sure if that is the direction that the state should go. Overall, Gregoire said, she is not ready to take a position on the proposal.

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