December 14, 2018, WMS Medigram
The administrator for the state’s Worker’s Compensation (WC) program signaled support for multiple “agreed-to” bill proposals in the upcoming 2019-2020 state legislative biennium. This allows for one of the bills to contain solely “non-controversial” statute and administrative code updates for the Department of Workforce Development, which oversees the state’s program for work-related injuries. Administrator and former State Sen. Frank Lasee made the comments at the most recent meeting of the Worker’s Compensation Advisory Council (WCAC), held December 11 in Madison.
Separate bills would be a departure from the norm for the state’s WC policy-making process, which usually sees just one “omnibus” bill each legislative session. The WCAC—which has voting members from Labor and Business entities—meets throughout the biennium to debate potential changes to the state’s worker’s compensation program. The negotiated agreement is then submitted as legislation to the state legislature. The Society is one of the WCAC’s four non-voting health care liaisons who advise Labor and Business on how policy proposals may affect health care’s ability to provide care to patients suffering a workplace-related injury.
Last session’s omnibus bill included a provision that would have for the first time created a fee schedule for worker’s comp-related care. The Society and other health care groups strongly opposed the legislation as an unnecessary disruption to a WC system viewed as a national leader, providing patients ready access to high-quality care resulting in faster return-to-work and lower costs compared to other states’ systems. That proposal received just one public hearing in the State Senate’s Labor committee and was never introduced in the State Assembly. Administrator Lasee’s suggestion signifies a recognition that future bills containing items health care considers “poison pills” could continue to scuttle any progress in less controversial areas.
Neither Labor nor Management members of the WCAC signaled agreement with Administrator Lasee’s suggestion—perhaps because Lasee’s position is a gubernatorial appointment and Tony Evers will become Wisconsin’s 46th governor on January 7, 2019.