The Workers’ Compensation Advisory Council (WCAC), which met in New Orleans on March 23rd during the 2018 Louisiana Workforce Commission Labor Summit, voted on a series of workers’ comp-related bills that have been filed for the 2018 Regular Session. A main part of the WCAC’s mission is to vote favorably or unfavorably on legislative instruments before they reach Committee.
Claimant attorney Trey Mustian presented amendments on this bill to the Council and public. He said that the amendments are meant to address a split in the Circuit Courts regarding whether or not new evidence can be allowed at the workers’ comp judge level. The bill as it stands would not allow new evidence unless a new 1010 is filed and the Medical Director can assess the information. The bill would also put a 30 day prescriptive period on filing an appeal after a decision from the Medical Director, which will not have the effect of res judicata.
After some debate over whether or not the new evidence issue would necessary need to be included in this measure, Office of Workers’ Compensation Administration (OWCA) Director Sheral Kellar put the “clean bill” to a vote. The “clean bill” version would only include the new 30 day prescriptive period, and not address new evidence. The “clean” version of HB 257 received unanimously support from the WCAC and will be reported favorably.
Director Kellar introduced this bill, which would prevent public servants from speaking in support for or against legislation, as the “Sheral bill” because of the perception among those that work for the agency that the measure is a reaction to her testimony on Representative Talbot’s closed pharmacy formulary bill last Session. Kellar explained that the bill died on the House floor already but is up for reconsideration, so she advised the Council to keep it on its radar for a potential future vote.
Director Kellar discussed this bill as mainly a “housekeeping” issue changing some technical language. The part that concerns workers’ comp is language in the wake of recent workers’ comp claims adjuster licensing requirements that changes “Louisiana-domiciled independent claims adjusters” to “licensed workers’ comp claims adjusters domiciled in this state.” According to Kellar, essentially this change means that workers’ comp claims adjusted in Louisiana require a specific licensed workers’ comp adjuster rather than any other general adjuster. The WCAC voted unanimously in favor of the bill.
SB 180 provides for tort liability for a worker’s compensation insurer that causes further injury through the unreasonable denial of medical treatment to an injured worker. This measure expressly excludes the employer holding the valid workers’ comp policy from tort liability and instead “provides that the workers’ compensation insurance company, who actually made the decision to unreasonably deny medical treatment, shall be liable in tort but the employer, who did not make the decision, shall not be liable.” Morris moved to vote unfavorably on the bill but lacked a second on the Council so his motion failed. Council member Chuck Davoli offered a substitute motion to vote favorably on the bill which was seconded. Seven Council members voted for this motion (all present except Director Kellar) with one vote against (Morris) and so the bill was reported favorably.
This measure would change the name of the Louisiana Workforce Commission to the Louisiana Department of Labor. After Davoli asked about a fiscal note on the bill (none was done), the Council voted unanimously in favor of the measure.
Director Kellar announced that the public hearing on new Second Injury Board questionnaire will be held on April 24th a the Louisiana Workforce Commission. She also announced that there is a vacancy on the WCAC due to the departure of Ray Peters, a representative of business, and encouraged potential candidates to contact her.
The next WCAC meeting will be held on April 26th at the LaSalle building in Baton Rouge.
Council members present March 23rd: Kellar, Davoli, Lindsey, Murusak, Murray, Dartez, Morris, Jones, Williams
Council members absent: Cherry, Collins, Kruse, Losavio, Nunley, Perkins, Zimmermann