Archive for Saturday, March 7, 2009

Bill’s supporters stay upbeat despite opposition

March 7, 2009


Advocates for employees remained upbeat Friday about increasing workers compensation benefits despite the comment of a key lawmaker who said the proposal appears doomed.

“I’m very optimistic,” Terry Humphrey, president of the Kansas Coalition for Workplace Safety, said of chances of legislative approval of Senate Bill 258.

Earlier Friday, Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said he doubted that the legislation would progress. “I would be surprised if there’s time (in this legislative session),” he said.

A subcommittee plans to meet Wednesday on the measure.

Under SB 258, the Kansas Department of Labor would adjust the caps on workers comp benefits to an amount equal to the Midwest cost of living adjustment.

Benefits for total disability, partial disability and total disability over a temporary time frame haven’t increased in Kansas since 1987. For example, the cap for permanent and total disability is $125,000, and the cap for a permanent and partial disability is $100,000.

Workers’ groups argue that’s unfair for those severely injured employees.

But business groups have united in opposition, saying increasing the caps would lead to increases in employer-paid workers comp premiums.

A report from the state Department of Labor shows that there have been an average of 29 permanent disability cases per year over the past five years in Kansas.

Some lawmakers have said the legislation should include safeguards against fraudulent injury claims. But the DOL report shows that of 791 fraud, abuse and compliance cases referred last year, only one was for receiving temporary total disability or permanent disability benefits to which the person was not entitled. More than 700 of the cases dealt with employers failing to report workplace accidents and failing to maintain required workers comp insurance, according to the report.


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