It's official. New York State has rejected the AMA Guides for the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. Instead, New York will update the existing 1996 Medical Guidelines as previously suggested by the Workers' Compensation Alliance. The New York Workers' Compensation Alliance, along with our friends in New York Injured Workers' Bar Association and the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, can take the lion's share of the credit for knocking these unreliable and anti-worker guides out of the ballpark. We were thinking of burying a copy of the Sixth Edition of the Guides in the cement at the new Yankees' Stadium so that millions of fans can stomp on them, but the engineers told us that this would hurt the structural integrity of the stadium!
As we correctly predicted a few weeks ago, the AMA Guides were rejected by the New York State Insurance Department as a basis for determining impairment and/or disability in claims before the New York Workers' Compensation Board. We believe that the State Insurance Department has asked Dr. Christopher Brigham to stop work on his $162,500 contract to bring AMA Guides to New York. Hopefully, this will start a trend in other states to banish these hurtful Guides that have been labeled "hokum" and "not evidence based" by renowned workers' compensation expert, Dr. John Burton.
However, the ill conceived detour toward the AMA Guides has left the New York State Workers' Compensation system in crisis. The workers' compensation "deforms" pushed through by former Governor Eliot Spitzer are now over one year old. Despite substantial changes in the law imposing "caps" on permanent partial disabilities based upon certain percentage ranges of "disability", judges, injured workers, medical providers and insurance carriers still have no guidance on how to evaluate medical impairment under the new law. Precious time has been wasted during New York's Brigham courtship.
The New York Workers' Compensation Alliance, speaking for over 150,000 injured union and non-union workers in New York, urges Workers' Compensation Board Chairman Zachary Weiss to immediately appoint a full time Medical Director for the Board. This Medical Director can then assemble a distinguished panel of New York doctors and other health professionals to quickly update the existing 1996 Medical Guidelines. A firm deadline should be set (perhaps 90 days) to have the updated guidelines in place. This will lessen the looming crisis where none of the the stakeholders in the system know how to implement the "deform" laws passed last year.
The Workers' Compensation Alliance wishes to thank all its loyal members and friends who helped us successfully fight the imposition of AMA Guides in New York. There is strength in numbers and solidarity. The Alliance is in the process of building new bridges to other organizations that share our belief that injured workers deserve fair benefits in New York. Unfortunately, the ranks of injured workers are growing, but the New York Workers'' Compensation Alliance is ready to use our collective voice to elect those who share our beliefs.
For now, let us bask in our most recent victory banishing the AMA Guides from New York, while remembering that there are many battles yet to be fought - and won!