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State of Nebraska Legislative Session 2017: The Good News and the Bad News for Workers’ Compensation

Several bills are under consideration at the 105th Nebraska Unicameral Legislature that, if passed, will impact Nebraska workers’ compensation claims. 

Two bills are particularly advantageous to injured workers: LB 147 and LB 181.  

LB 147, introduced by Senator Matt Hansen, would require a thirty day notice to an employee receiving disability payments if those payments are to be terminated or suspended. 

So often we discover that injured worker’s weekly indemnity payments have been terminated when the checks just stop coming.  Then a mad scramble ensues as we call the adjuster, obtain medical records, or just get to the bottom of the problem…and in the meantime the injured worker has lost income.  A thirty day notice, and also the opportunity to place the issue in front of a judge if warranted, would give an injured worker and the worker’s attorney time to investigate the issue before payments cease. 

LB 181, introduced by Senator Dan Quick, Senator Ernie Chambers, Senator Sue Crawford, Senator Matt Hansen, Senator Sara Howard, Senator Mike McDonnell, Senator Patty Pansing Brooks, and Senator Tony Vargas, would also provide some basic fairness to a medical imbalance of power.  

If an employer chooses a medical provider for an injured worker, and that provider renders an opinion concerning an employee’s ability to work, physical restrictions, permanent restrictions and other important medical questions, the employee may ask the Court for a second medical opinion by a provider chosen by the employee.  All costs related to this second opinion would be paid by the employer. 

Many states are subjecting injured workers to treatment only from physicians and other providers approved by the employers and workers’ compensation insurance companies – often with no opportunity for appeal.  Kudos to these senators who want Nebraska to be a state where workers are valued and not voiceless in terms of their medical fate. 

One bill, LB 408, is not advantageous to injured workers.

LB 408, introduced by Senator John Lowe Sr., proposes the use of a drug formulary of prescription medications that may and may not be used in treating any given condition.  If a physician prescribes a drug not recommended on the formulary and the drug is denied, the employee has the option of requesting an independent medical exam (IME) to decide the question.  IMEs, however, take time be approved, time to schedule, time and sometimes travel for the exam, and time for the independent physician to write a report.  If an injured worker needs a medication not on the formulary, this is time that might be critical in an injured worker’s recovery.  While drug formularies are touted as cost saving, they also dictate rigid solutions for treatment – often without considering the age of the worker, the severity of the injury, and the stage of recovery among other factors.  Essentially formularies replace the doctor’s decisions to reasonable care.  Every case is unique which creates a problem having blanket rules for treatment.   

Please contact your Nebraska state senators and add your voice to those advocating for workers’ compensation rights in Nebraska. 

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