On May 16, a bill was signed by Governor Dayton that changes the way that workers’ compensations have been handled over the past thirty years. The law now recognizes mental injuries, whereas it didn’t before. The following are changes in the workers’ compensation Minnesota injured workers are entitled to if they become injured on the job:
- Mental claims – Mental impairment is now included in the definition of occupational disease. A mental impairment is defined as a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist. However, a mental impairment is not considered a disease if it is the result of work evaluation, disciplinary action at work, layoff, job transfer, promotion, demotion, retirement, termination, or a similar good faith action taken by the employer.
- Attorney fees – Attorney fees will no longer rely on the 25/20 formula and the employee will receive a partial reimbursement of fees, which applies to contingent fees only that are paid by the employee’s compensation benefits. Fees are not reimbursed for resolution in a rehabilitation or medical dispute.
- Adjustments for cost of living – For work injuries that occur after October 1, 2013, a cost of living adjustment may be made that does not exceed 3%, but should not be less than 0%. The initial adjustment is deferred until the injury’s 3rd anniversary with the adjustment made for the last year only.
- Compensation rates – The maximum compensation will be 102% of the average weekly wage for the state for the period that ends December 31 of the previous year. The current maximum compensation rate has been eliminated, while the minimum rate of $130 has not changed.
- Rehabilitation services – The job placement services must not exceed 20 hours each month or 26 intermittent or consecutive weeks. If it has reached the point where 13 intermittent or consecutive weeks of job placement or development services have been provided, the QRC must consult with the parties and either file an amendment that reflects an agreement by the parties to extend the job placement services for another 13 intermittent or consecutive weeks, or file a Rehabilitation Conference request. The commissioner or compensation judge may modify or amend the rehab plan, but it may not order more than 26 total weeks of job placement services.
- Qualified rehabilitation consultant: A QRC must not provide rehab, medical, or disability case management services that are related to an injury that can be compensated under Chapter 176 when the services are a part of the same claim, unless the case management services are part of a rehab plan that has already been approved.
- Pain contract – The commissioner may adopt rules that establish standards and procedures for the treatment by a health care provider. The rules may include criteria for the long-term use of scheduled medications that alleviate pain and improve a person’s function, including the use of written contracts between the health care provider and the injured worker regarding those medications.
- Patient advocate pilot program – The commissioner may implement a patient advocate program for two years. The employee must have had a back injury or they must be considering back fusion surgery.
The changes will go into effect on October 1, 2013.