In 2007, a number of changes were made in New York's worker's compensation laws by the state legislature in an effort to update and reform this vital area of the law. Among these changes are the following:
- The number of weeks of a claimant was allowed to collect permanent partial disability (PPD) payments was limited.
- Guidelines for medical treatment were created.
- A fee schedule for drugs was adopted.
- Networks for diagnostic services and thresholds for preauthorization were established.
- The speed of case resolution was increased.
To provide some background, PPD injuries are suffered by a wide range of workers, including hospital aides, factory hands and construction workers. Such injuries are typically soft-tissue injuries to the knee or back, such as torn ligaments or slipped discs; these types of injuries can get better but may never heal completely.
Effects of latest changes
In 2013, the Workers Compensation Research Institute studied the effects of the 2007 changes and came up with a number of findings, including the following:
- The average weekly temporary total disability payment increased 26 percent between 2007 and 2009.
- In the same time span, there was a 13 percent decrease of PPD cases that had no lump-sum payments, while there was a 10.5 point increase in cases with lump-sum payments but no PPD payments.
- The average price per pill decreased by 10 to 20 percent.
Behind these results, a number of problems and complications have arisen. First and foremost, as of 2011, there was a backlog of 12,000 new cases, perhaps due to the fact that guidelines on how compensation judges should rule on PPD cases were not issued until that year.
Ellen Melchionni, president of the New York Insurance Association, while acknowledging that the 2007 changes have been helpful in streamlining worker's compensation insurance while providing necessary care to injured workers, says the current system is burdened with continued fraud, plus increased medical costs and expenses brought about by the need to comply with increased regulation. She says, further, that the NYIA feels a thorough evaluation of the costs in the worker's compensation system needs to occur, which would lead to necessary modifications. Moreover, says Melchionni, "We have not yet seen the full realization of the cap on permanent partial disability duration, but remain optimistic that it will have a positive effect."
As will be noted from the above, worker's compensation litigation is a complex and ever-changing field of law. For this reason, it is important to work with an experienced workers' compensation attorney who can best understand these complications and changes and provide you with the compensation you deserve.