Minnesota is Making Changes in Workers’ Compensation

2013 has been marked as the year Minnesota will see changes in workers’ compensation. More mental illness claims will be allowed and the benefits are going to go up.

It was announced on June 14 that the Minnesota State Legislature passed a bill that contained changes to Minnesota’s workers’ compensation system. This is a system that pays the wage replacement and medical costs for individuals who become ill or injured on the job. The Minnesota Workers’ Compensation council provided the content for this bill, which represents an agreement between business and labor interests. The governor has now signed the bill into law and it will go into effect this year.

Of the changes, benefits will increase for ill and injured workers. The maximum weekly wage replacement benefit is going to be tied to the statewide average weekly wage for workers. From October 2012 to September 2013, that number is $916. Right now, the weekly workers’ compensation wage benefit is capped at $850.

Workers who receive long-term benefits receive a cost of living adjustment each year and the new law also makes this adjustment sooner. Currently, the change cannot be more than 2 percent at a time. When the new law goes into effect, that amount will be 3 percent. There is a three year wait under the current law regarding this increase. The new law lowers the wait to three years.

Treatment options and availability is also changing with those who have experienced mental injury being able to obtain benefits when they have been declined benefits in the past. The new law allows employees to be covered for post traumatic stress disorder that originates from an incident in the workplace. For instance, an employer’s good faith action was the cause of the injury.

When it comes to controversial procedures, they will be dealt with in a manner that is different from the current law. For instance, back fusion surgery has been declared a possible treatment for some back injuries. In the past, it was deemed experimental. It is now undergoing studies to determine effectiveness. The 2013 law will allow for a patient advocate program that will educate injured workers about what their options are when back fusion is presented to them. These workers will be able to make more informed decisions about their treatment.

Also a concern is the use of narcotics to treat chronic pain resulting from workplace injury. Because these drugs can lead to dependency, the current law requires doctors to follow pain management treatment standards. The new law compels doctors and patients to sign a treatment contract that covers the long-term use of narcotics.

Other changes may not be as obvious for benefit recipients. One is to determine whether or not a health care provider is to be paid when it is not certain the injury is work-related. Sometimes workers’ compensation pays more than the employee’s health insurance and this is something that is to change by considering the doctor paid in full when the employee’s health insurance has paid.