Although trained as an attorney, Bruce Topman is now a political operative in Gov. Eliot Spitzer's Insurance Department. He has no prior experience in workers' compensation law or policy . Yet he is charged with shepherding the various task forces created by Gov. Spitzer after the workers' compensation reform legislation to their conclusion - no matter what the result. The final Medical Guidelines, which were originally due in November, are now due in two weeks.
Unfortunately, Mr. Topman's job performance to date has been dreadful. His "Rocket Docket" Task Force conclusions have been roundly criticized by insurance companies, injured workers' advocates and Workers' Compensation Law Judge's as unworkable at best. Now, he has breached the confidence of the entire Medical Guidelines Task Force by secretly hiring the well known insurance company biased Dr. Christopher Brigham to implement the anti-worker AMA Guidelines for Permanent Impairment in New York. It would seem that Mr. Topman is now doing the bidding for the Business Council of New York State - not its citizens.
Did you know that the American Medical Association itself has fought the State of Texas for using the AMA Guides inappropriately? See the AMA's legal brief here. Although the AMA Guidelines are touted as being "'objective" by business and the insurance industry, what they really are a tool to lower cash awards for permanent injuries to injured workers. Ask any advocate for injured workers in other states where they have been implemented, and they will tell you AMA Guides lower cash awards for permanent injuries to injured workers. See Dr. Brigham's article in "For the Defense" here. After all, if they lowered awards to workers, would insurance companies really push for them? Of course not!
Mr. Topman has a lot of explaining to do about his secret deal with Dr. Brigham at the next meeting of the task force this Friday in New York City. Since this is an "open meeting" under the New York State Open Meetings Law, the WCA and the Injured Workers' Bar Association of New York will be sending observers to hear Mr. Topman's explanation of his actions and we will report back here. Stay tuned...there may be a Minority Task Force Report.