The 2016 Regular Session officially ended at 6 PM yesterday. As lawmakers prepared to move into a second Special Session to remedy the state’s budget woes, HB 280 failed to be called up again in the House for a final vote after three amendments, one of which passed, were forcefully debated in the Senate. Only four measures of any major significance to the workers’ comp industry passed this year. Senator Gatti’s bill standardizing employer credits after successful subrogation efforts and the legislation eliminating the need for a prescription or referral for physical therapy are on the Governor’s desk. Governor Edwards already signed the bill requiring workers’ comp adjusters to be licensed, and HCR 113, which will create a committee to study opioid abuse in Louisiana, was signed by the Speaker of the House.
It’s the home stretch of the 2016 Legislative Session. Although legislators are scheduled to meet a mere half hour after this session ends on June 6th for a second special session to solve the state’s budget woes, some workers’ comp legislation did make it out of the gate and a few measures are close to final passage. Namely, the subrogation bill ensuring employers receive credit for prevailing against a third party as the cause of an accident, the bill stiffening the financial stability practices and procedures for group funds, and the resolution creating the Louisiana Commission on Preventing Opioid Abuse.
The measure requiring workers’ comp adjusters to be licensed has been signed into law by Governor Edwards, and the bill granting further regulatory authority to the Insurance Commissioner to take control of group self-insurance funds in poor financial shape is close to final passage. The remaining relevant legislation is unlikely to move this Session, as Senator Neil Riser, Chairman of the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee, stated that he would not call any further meetings.
The comp bills that are moving this Session took their next steps, including Senator Gatti’s subrogation bill, which moved favorably out House Labor, and HCR113 to create the Louisiana Commission on Preventing Opioid Abuse. Meanwhile, the adjuster licensure bill is awaiting Governor Edwards’ signature and the measure seeking to expand access to physical therapy without a prescription is set for floor debate next week.
All of the action was in Health and Welfare this week. Legislators in the House considered SB 291 by Senator Mills, a companion measure to HB 623, which would allow patients to access physical therapy care without a prescription or referral. The measure passed favorably out of Committee. The Committee also favorably moved a measure that would create a Commission to study and develop recommendations for Louisiana’s opioid crisis.
On Tuesday, May 10th, Louisiana Comp Blog hosted its May “Comp in Focus” luncheon at Ralph’s on the Park in New Orleans. The bimonthly series, which aims to generate discussion from a variety of stakeholders about hot button issues in the comp industry, featured Dr. Douglas Lurie speaking on evidence-based medicine.
Last week, the comp adjuster licensing bill (SB 266) moved favorably out of Committee, as did the group self-insurance fund financials measure (HB 280) in its second hearing. Further, the subrogation bill aimed at reducing comp premiums for employers moved favorably out of Senate Labor. This week, few comp-related bills are moving. HB 280 passed the House Wednesday and will move onto the Senate.
Last week, HB 575, seeking to change the status of workers’ comp judges from classified to unclassified, was deferred. The same day, SB 44, a bill delineating certain subrogation rights for employers, won approval from the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council. This week, the group self-insurance fund financial bill faces another Committee hearing and the measure mandating the licensure of workers’ comp adjusters moves to the House. Also, Workers’ Memorial Day will be recognized with a program at the Labor Union Hall in Baton Rouge.
The April meeting of the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council (WCAC) at the Louisiana Workforce Commission focused mainly on regulatory issues, including Senator Gatti’s pending subrogation bill (SB 44). However, much of the discussion was tied up with the new proposed 1008 and Answer forms, presented by newly appointed Chief Judge Diane Lundeen. Complaints about the draft centered around potential difficulty of use for unrepresented claimants.
Representative Chris Broadwater, a former Director of the Office of Workers’ Compensation and sponsor of several comp-related bills this Session, is ready to “raise eyebrows” regarding his most controversial measures. The veteran legislator sat down with Louisiana Comp Blog after a Committee meeting last Thursday in which his group Fund regulation bill (HB 280) was reported favorably.