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Senate committee recommends workers' comp bill backed by business, opposed by labor
Topeka — The Senate Commerce Committee on Monday recommended approval of a workers' compensation bill opposed by labor and trial lawyers.
Pro-business interests said Senate Bill 73 updated medical guidelines dealing with workers injured on the job and the employer-paid insurance system to compensate them.
The bill would use the American Medical Association Sixth Edition of injury impairment ratings, rather than the Fourth Edition which is currently used and agreed to two years ago by both sides of workers' comp litigation.
Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, said the proposed change was a mistake.
"I have a huge concern that there are classes of workers out there who will no longer qualify for work disability," under the newer edition, he said.
Trial lawyers and labor officials said the Sixth Edition guidelines were untested and would be confusing to Kansas physicians who had become accustomed to the Fourth Edition.
Holland's amendment to keep the Fourth Edition was rejected.
But several Republicans also expressed concern about changing to the Sixth Edition and an amendment was approved to delay its implementation until 2015.
The committee also removed a proposal in the bill that would have disallowed payment through workers' compensation insurance coverage to undocumented workers.
In addition, Sen. Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, successfully amended the bill to shorten to 10 days from 20 days the time an injured worker has to file a workers' comp complaint.
Some on the committee said the shorter period would increase the number of workers' comp disputes because workers would be faced with a tighter deadline to decide to pursue a claim. But Denning said the shorter deadline would encourage workers to get treatment while giving employers more certainty about whether they would face an injured worker claim.