To Workers’ Compensation Physicians:
At the direction of the State Legislature, the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board recently released proposed regulations and guidelines to account for advances in modern medicine that enhance healing and result in better outcomes. Unfortunately, the Board’s proposals actually revise forms, processes, regulations and guidelines in a way that will drastically reduce, and in some cases eliminate, compensation benefits for injured workers.
The proposed regulations also would strip injured workers of important protections and due process rights, and would create a system ripe for abuse by employers, insurers, IME vendors, and IMEs. Low wage workers, who already receive the least compensation because of the wage-oriented basis of the law and who already believe the system is unfair and that benefits are inadequate, would suffer the most grievous harm as a result of the proposed regulations and guidelines.
The Board has released no documents or information providing medical support for the revision of its guidelines, nor has it explained how loss of function is now significantly less impactful than it has been in the past. The proposed guidelines completely eliminate consideration of the anatomical damage resulting from most injuries. There is no medical basis upon which it can be said that broken bones, dislocated joints, torn ligaments and tendons, and joint replacement surgeries cause no permanent damage to the body. In addition, there is no medical basis upon which it can be said that the normal range of motion of the human anatomy has changed, or that range of motion deficits have a significantly smaller impact on the function of a limb today than previously.
In the original workers’ compensation “bargain” workers gave up the right to sue employers for workplace injury in exchange for the assurance that they would be compensated for their injuries through the workers’ compensation system. These proposed regulations and guidelines destroy that bargain and will leave thousands of injured workers with no compensation at all for their workplace injury.
The Business Council has asserted that revisions are necessary because schedule-loss-of-use costs are skyrocketing, but this is simply false. Schedule loss awards represent only a small portion of all employer costs, which are lower today than they were in 1996, and which were just reduced by nearly a half billion dollars.
We must support New York’s workers and reject these destructive proposals.