"Rocket Docket" New York Workers' Compensation Task Force Up and Running
Since our last post about the lack of progress of the workers' compensation task forces created by Governor Spitzer, the Workers' Compensation Alliance was invited to a meeting last Monday at the New York State Insurance Department in downtown Manhattan. Representing the Workers' Compensation Alliance were Co-Chairs John Sciortino of Rochester and Troy Rosasco of Long Island. Representing the New York Injured Workers' Bar Association were President Barbara Levine and Director James McCarthy.
We were introduced to Bruce Topman, Esq. the new Executive Director of the combined Task Forces, in addition to Special Counsel Zachary Weiss and Dr. Hampton Finer, a Labor Economist. Mr. Topman is a sharp former litigator. We immediately got down to business in discussing ways to shorten the time a controverted workers' compensation claim is resolved. The discussion was wide ranging, informative and productive.
The official "Rocket Docket" Task Force then met last Friday in Albany. Our own John Sciortino, Esq. has been graciously designated a member of this task force by AFL-CIO President Dennis Hughes along with Art Wilcox. Representing the Business Council of New York State at this meeting was Steven Scotti, Esq., workers' compensation counsel for Con Ed and formerly the City of New York. The task force met again this morning in Albany. The next, and perhaps most important Task Force to be formed, will be the Medical Guidelines Task Force. We will provide more information regarding the formation and membership of this crucial Task Force shortly.
One proposal that employers/carriers around the state are floating is an "unrestricted medical release authorization" from the claimant at the beginning of any workers' compensation claim. This proposal is bad for two reasons. First, it allows employer/carriers to go on unrestricted "fishing expeditions" to find prior medical records to fight legitimate claims. Compensation and medical care will be severely delayed to deserving workers - leading to slower medical recovery and worse return-to-work outcomes. Second, it would be a gross violation of the workers' medical privacy. Imagine if your employer could now get medical records regarding your past abortion history or other sensitive medical information. What happens when these records "slip out " onto the factory floor or into the lunch room.
An alternative might be a "limited medical authorization" in which the workers' treating physician would determine what, if any, past medical records were "relevant" to the pending workers' compensation claim. This seems like a reasonable balancing of both worker and employer due process interests.